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Interview with Richard Heene

Aired January 8, 2010 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Richard Heene -- the dad who led the whole country to believe his little son was trapped in a runway balloon...


KING: here, in his interview before he reports to jail this Monday.




KING: So what was it?

Heene tells us what really happened and why he pled guilty.


R. HEENE: You know, I was going to fight to the death on it.

KING: And how the ordeal has impacted the whole family.

The sheriff who once believed him and the district attorney who prosecuted him will respond.

All right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Two and a half months ago, the whole country, it seems, feared that a little boy in Colorado had floated away in a balloon made by his father. It turned out that Falcon Heene was safe at home while authorities chased after the craft hoping for a rescue.

Richard Heene was prosecuted and will serve jail time for what some are calling a hoax.

He's here with us tonight. And wait until you see later what he brought with him.

Thanks for coming, Richard. All right, you're due to start 30 days of straight jail time and then what, 60 days of -- what do they call it?

R. HEENE: Work release.

KING: Work release.

That means you can work and then go back to jail at night?

R. HEENE: Correct.

KING: Nervous?

R. HEENE: I'm -- I'm very nervous, because I'm -- I'm going to be away from my family. And, you know, I've always been there to protect them, you know -- be the father.

KING: And you've got three, right?

R. HEENE: I've got three little boys and then my wife.

KING: Now your wife will serve after you're finished?

R. HEENE: Right. That's right.

KING: She'll do, what, 20 days?

R. HEENE: Twenty days of -- she spends the night at our house, goes there and does some work, comes back out. So about eight hours a day.

KING: You think that's fair?

R. HEENE: I think it's very unfair, because it -- what she got was a -- a misdemeanor. And the plea deal was set up in such a way to where I thought she was not going to get any jail time. And I don't mind taking the -- the jail time myself. I mean, they could have given me her...

KING: You would do the extra 20...

R. HEENE: I would have.

KING: ... That she got.

Authorities say the incident was a hoax planned and orchestrated by you and you plead guilty.

Are you disputing that?

R. HEENE: I'm not disputing the fact that I did have to plead guilty. And when I say have to, I had to do it to save my family and my wife.

KING: How so?

R. HEENE: The threat of deportation was imminent.

KING: Deporting who?

R. HEENE: My wife.

KING: A threat -- to where?

R. HEENE: Japan. We had applied years ago for some paperwork. Things got fouled up. We had to reapply. So she should have been an American citizen by now, but anyway. I can't -- I can't break up my family. It -- it would be absolutely disastrous, I mean, to have DHS come in, regulate us...

KING: So they told you, if you don't plead guilty, they would deport your wife?

R. HEENE: No, they never said that but...

KING: So...

R. HEENE: ...but the topic came up. If we had endured -- if I had said I'm not guilty, we would have to endure two to three years of the trial process. I wouldn't be able to go to work.

I mean, who's going to hire me?

And attorney's fees would be, you know, extremely high. My wife would -- would be going through this immense torture; my kids, through school.

Did I want to put my kids through all that?

I took the easy way out at this juncture and that is to go ahead and take that plea.

KING: Now you and the wife were sentenced in late December. At the time, your attorney said what you did was wrong and that what had taken place was your fault.

Let's take a look at the brief statement you made to the court.



R. HEENE: I'm very, very sorry. And I want to apologize to all the rescue workers out there and the -- the people that got involved in the community.


KING: Now your attorney said you were wrong. Obviously, you did something wrong.

R. HEENE: Well...

KING: Obviously, if the kid wasn't in -- and you knew he wasn't in...

R. HEENE: No. No. Absolutely not.

KING: What -- what?

R. HEENE: First off, I -- OK. I need to clarify. When I apologized the -- what -- on the clip that you just showed, I was apologizing for people getting involved, OK?

This was not a hoax. It never was.

KING: What was it?

R. HEENE: It never was.

KING: What was it?

R. HEENE: The incident that occurred with the -- well, people are calling it a balloon. It's not. It's what I call a 3-D LAV. This is a family experiment. We do quite a few of these type of projects together. On that day, when Falcon was in and out of this project, we told him many times to stay out, you know, don't -- don't get in it, it's very dangerous, because, you know, things could happen.

So on that day when we couldn't find him, after it had taken off, I was losing my mind. I was up and down this ladder. I gave you guys some footage, by the way, that the police did not take. I don't know why they left this behind. It was sitting on a table, the camera -- four hours of footage, which, in my opinion, would have shown that we were innocent.

But we had searched the house high and low and -- and -- and...


R. HEENE: I'm -- I'm sorry.

KING: It's OK.

R. HEENE: And I -- you know, after I saw him in and out of this craft and Bradford told me that he went inside, I, at first, didn't believe Bradford. And I told him that perhaps he's around. I said, I just saw him. And...

KING: In sum and substance, you believed your son was in the craft?

R. HEENE: I knew he was in the craft when I (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: Well, you didn't know it, because...

R. HEENE: No. No. No.

KING: ... He wasn't.

R. HEENE: In my mind. In my mind.


R. HEENE: There was no other place, because I visualized him. I yelled at him to -- to not go in. And so I called the FAA, because when I was on the roof it was heading straight -- it was heading straight for Loveland Airport. I am a certified Level 1 with NAR, the National Association of Rocketry. Whenever you launch high powered rockets you call for an FAA clearance. This is what I'm used to doing.

KING: You also called television stations, though, right?

R. HEENE: I called -- I called for a helicopter. I want to make that very clear. I called the FAA. They told me -- and I asked them if they had a helicopter. I -- she told me I had to call 911. I called 911. Now, I've given you guys the actual phone records to prove that. And this is what everybody has got all wrong.

After the 911 call -- after two minutes of me talking about it, it went to Fort Collins City. It was not recorded at Larimer County. They transferred Mayumi later on.

And so after I gave the phone to Mayumi, you could hear me clearly in the background talking to -- what I say is -- the people with the helicopter, she handed me a number and said, "Call them." She didn't say, "Call Channel Nine News."

KING: All right, let's -- let's -- well, I'm trying to -- I don't want to get confused here.


KING: Mayumi is your wife. She took a polygraph test. It showed deception on key questions. According to police, she also told them that you and she had instructed your children to lie to authorities during and after the October 15th incident.

Police are saying that's what your wife told them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you tell the boys what you were doing?

MAYUMI HEENE: We told them.


And how did you get them to go along with it?

Did you just ask them to act like their brother got up in the plane or up in the balloon or...

M. HEENE: Yes. Something like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) R. HEENE: Larry, you're asking a question -- I'm going to go serve 90 days in their back yard. And I'm -- yes. I will say that things were not portrayed as they really were. I've got audio and video comparing the two. And...

KING: It would -- it wouldn't have taken three years. You could have gotten a -- you could have gone to trial. You can ask for a quick trial in this country. You could have gone to trial in 60 days.

R. HEENE: Well...

KING: Why didn't you fight it?

R. HEENE: Well, David told me -- he said, "Richard, this will be an easier way out." David Lane, my...

KING: David is your lawyer?

R. HEENE: ... My -- my attorney. And he...

KING: This was even though you know didn't do anything wrong?

R. HEENE: Exactly.

KING: Your attorney advises you to say you did something wrong?


KING: He then says you did something wrong.

R. HEENE: What he did was lay out the opportunities in front of me. And this goes back...

KING: But he said you were wrong in court.

R. HEENE: My attorney said that?

KING: Yes.

R. HEENE: I don't recall him ever saying that.

KING: Well, at least, I...


KING: All right. It was -- oh, but the crux of it here is on this show, that little Falcon -- Wolf Blitzer was hosting. And your son made a comment that effectively blew the whistle on you, eventually getting you in big legal trouble. And we're going to talk about that right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a -- a little boy in this aircraft.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Search teams are scouring the area from the house in the direction that balloon flew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have confirmed outside the home that the child's name is Falcon who is on board the aircraft right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He floated away from his family's home on an experimental aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The son is the one that came in and told them that -- that his brother had climbed in the basket when it took off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of them crawled on board, the 6-year- old, Falcon. And the other child just watched it take off and ran in to tell his parents.


KING: Just hours -- we're back with Richard Heene, by the way, who just joined us.

Just hours after the balloon touched down and it was found that your youngest son had been hiding in your garage attic during this whole episode, your family appeared on this show.

Wolf Blitzer was guest hosting.

During the interview, Falcon said something that raised a whole lot of questions about what had really happened and why.

Let's take a look.


R. HEENE: And, Falcon, did you hear us calling your name at any time?

F. HEENE: Um-hum.

R. HEENE: You did?

M. HEENE: You did?

R. HEENE: Well, why didn't you come out?

F. HEENE: You had said that, um, we did this for a show.

R. HEENE: Yes.


R. HEENE: You didn't come out?


KING: All right, authorities, Richard, specifically cited Falcon's words as part of probable cause they had for believing you'd committed a criminal offense. He said you did it for a show.

R. HEENE: OK. Well first off, let's take into consideration he's only been speaking English and just learned three and a half years prior to that. He's six years old during this interview, number one.

Number two, I had gotten back into the house after the initial -- talking to the press out in front of my house. I had opened the garage door to get my family back inside, away from these guys. And I looked over and there was 30 to 40 camera guys.

I asked Falcon after that -- I sat -- I -- I asked him -- I said, "Why did you say that, what are you talking about?"

And he said a Japanese cameraman from some -- an old man, a Johnny camera (ph), asked him to show them how he got into the attic for his T.V. Show. That's why Falcon answered that.

KING: He didn't mean that you were doing it for a proposed T.V. Show of your own?


KING: He was doing it to show them what he was doing?

R. HEENE: Exactly. So he and Bradford both were standing there showing...

KING: All right. Then -- I'm back to the original, why the hell did you plead guilty then?

If all these circumstances are true, you had a story to tell.

Why didn't you tell it?

R. HEENE: Well, I -- again, it goes back to saving my family. The -- the...

KING: From what?

R. HEENE: Well, the threat of my wife being deported.

KING: But you said they never made that specific threat.

R. HEENE: Well, when we sat down with Lee Christian and David Lane, independently...

KING: That's the prosecutors?

R. HEENE: The attorneys. I never got to speak to the prosecutors, by the way. But they -- they both laid it out and they said, look, public opinion has been swayed. The media is against you and the threat of deportation. And I'm thinking, where are we going to find 12 jurors anywhere who's going to think that we -- that we, you know -- they're not going to hold a middle ground. They've already been swayed.

KING: You gave us -- you mentioned that home video of the balloon taking off.

Let's watch your home video.

R. HEENE: Right.


R. HEENE: Three, two, one. OK.


R. HEENE: Oh, my God. OK.

Are you ready?



R. HEENE: Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) tether out.

M. HEENE: I did. I did.

R. HEENE: Let him have it (ph).


R. HEENE: Oh, come on, man.




R. HEENE: You didn't put the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) tether out. Jesus Christ.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Falcon was in there.


R. HEENE: God damn it.


R. HEENE: Mayumi, why did you cut that?

(CROSSTALK) R. HEENE: I told you to tie down the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) tether.

M. HEENE: I did. I did.

R. HEENE: I told you to tie the tether down.




You know what it is?

You never listen to a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) word I say.


R. HEENE: No. The whole (EXPLETIVE DELETED) thing, gone.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Dad, Falcon is in the ship.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Dad, Falcon is in there.

R. HEENE: Where?


R. HEENE: He -- I mean he was just here.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: No, he's in there.

R. HEENE: What?

M. HEENE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: He's in there. I saw him crawl in.

R. HEENE: No, he's not.


R. HEENE: He was just right here.



R. HEENE: Falcon.

M. HEENE: No way.


KING: The kid who told you he saw Falcon in there, what did he see?

R. HEENE: Well, I think that the last thing he literally saw...

KING: He couldn't have seen Falcon in there.

So why was the kid yelling, "I see Falcon in there, when he wasn't in there?"

R. HEENE: No, no, no...

KING: He said that.

R. HEENE: Falcon had walked up to him and said that he was going to sneak inside. And this is after four or five times of me telling him not to go in there. And he's -- he's known to go and hide. This is what he does. He likes to hide. And...

KING: But the kid didn't see him go in there.

R. HEENE: He did go in.

KING: He couldn't have.

R. HEENE: No, no, he did. He saw him go in so...

KING: And then what?

R. HEENE: Well, then we took a break. And we were actually inside when that incident had occurred. And so I didn't hear him say it. I didn't see him going in. And after the break, we -- we had two sliding glass doors. Bradford had ran around, I guess, to one side. He was going to tell me that he was in there. And he never did indicate anything to me. So he either forgot -- I don't know what happened. But -- and then when we were going to test, you know, the levitation of this thing...

KING: So you're swearing that none of that was staged?

R. HEENE: No. Nothing. Nothing.

KING: That you didn't do that film (INAUDIBLE)?

R. HEENE: Not at all. No.

KING: Because the kid yelling that he's on the -- he's on the craft...

R. HEENE: Yes.

KING: ... When he's not on the craft looks suspicious.

R. HEENE: I'm not sure -- I'm not following you.

KING: Well, the kid is yelling, Falcon's on the -- on the -- on whatever you call it.

R. HEENE: Right.

KING: Right?

R. HEENE: Right.

KING: But he wasn't.

R. HEENE: Well, according to Bradford...

KING: Yes?

R. HEENE: ... He absolutely knew that he was inside. So evidently it was a little thing. He didn't...

KING: Bradford was mistaken then?

R. HEENE: Yes.

KING: All right.

Richard has brought us something with him to show us. Wait until you see it. That's later. Don't go away.



F. HEENE: We did this for a show.

R. HEENE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Authorities say this whole thing was an elaborate hoax, that it was scripted by the boy's dad, Richard Heene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In terms of this being an alleged hoax, this is what millions of people had suspected all along

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was this some sort of publicity stunt?

Was this a hoax?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely no hoax.

JIM ALDERDEN, LARIMER COUNTY SHERIFF: It wasn't until the Larry King show, where the family was interviewed, that we had the first aha moment.


KING: We're back with Richard Heene.

Let's go back to October 15th.

Here's some of the 911 call that you made that day.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) R. HEENE: My family and I made an experimental flying saucer and it wasn't supposed to fly.


R. HEENE: It's -- it's -- we thought we had this thing tethered down.


R. HEENE: And my -- I think my six year old boy...

OPERATOR: What's wrong?

R. HEENE: ... He got inside and it took off. Yes.


Where is he at?

R. HEENE: He's -- he's -- he's in the air.

OPERATOR: He's in the air?

R. HEENE: Yes. He's only -- he's only six.


KING: By the way, just so we set this record straight, under the terms of your sentence, you can't get any form of financial benefit and LARRY KING LIVE doesn't pay for interviews. So just to confirm, you were not paid...

R. HEENE: I'm not paid.

KING: ... To be here. OK.

R. HEENE: We drove here.

KING: All right.

Well, the morning after your family's interview on LARRY KING LIVE, you all did several other T.V. Shows. It became clear Falcon wasn't feeling well.

Let's take a look at that.


F. HEENE: Well, I feel like I'm going to vomit.

M. HEENE: Oh. Oh.

R. HEENE: Are you OK, buddy?

F. HEENE: No. R. HEENE: Yes, he's -- I think he's queasy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he was referring to...



KING: Why didn't you cut that off when he got sick?

R. HEENE: I didn't...

KING: Why didn't you end the T.V. Interview?

R. HEENE: Well, I wanted to, but there was somebody on the side telling me go -- to go back -- go back and I...

KING: Yes, but your kid's sick.

R. HEENE: I know. I know, but (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: They don't rule you.

R. HEENE: Well, that's true. But I didn't know what -- you know. And the other thing, I only had one hour of sleep. So we had camera people out in front of our house with the lights shining through my window. I couldn't sleep. And then they tell us, you know, we've got to wake up early in the morning to -- it -- well, I'm trying to think of which one this is.

This is the morning?

KING: I guess, yes.

R. HEENE: OK. So by that time -- and I had had one hours of sleep and, you know, I...

KING: Is it true, Richard, that you were looking to do some sort of reality show?

R. HEENE: From this thing?


KING: From some -- you wanted to be on television. You wanted to have some sort of reality show.

R. HEENE: No, no, no. No. Let -- let me clarify that. We were asked to be on ABC's "Wife Swap." They were looking for a storm chase family. It was presented to us. So we thought, that sounds like it might be fun. I didn't know what the show was about. And I'm not about to swap my wife out for, you know, something weird. And it turns out the show was good.

So I thought, well, there's a message at the end. And then they invited us to be back on a second time. They also thought of the great idea to give us our own show. So they asked me to put together some ideas. I had worked my tail off putting together some ideas to submit it to them. And, I mean, that's the way that whole thing can...

KING: But it had no connection to this?

R. HEENE: No. Absolutely no connection.

KING: All right. You also apparently, though, just to set this record straight -- called the T.V. Station KUSA in Denver. Lots of reports that you called the FAA and the T.V. Station before 911.

R. HEENE: That's not true. That's an out and out lie. Now I'm telling -- I'm saying that's a lie, because...


R. HEENE: ... I have the actual interview when I was being interviewed by the police at the interrogation. And I told them exactly how I made the phone calls. An hour later, they're filling out paperwork, telling a judge the opposite. They're the ones that said that. I've never said that. I know how I made the phone calls. Anyway, I gave you guys the -- the tape to show it. And I gave you the text to show how they submitted it.

KING: How's your family doing now?

How's Falcon doing?

R. HEENE: Well, you know, the -- my -- my kids are...

KING: Is he taking the blame for this...


KING: ...or is he too young to?

R. HEENE: No. No. He -- the -- I mean, my kids are doing great. You know, they -- they weren't harassed in school. And one kid asked him, you know, a -- a question about it and that's been it. But...

KING: The Larimer County Sheriff, Jim Alderden, raised another potential red flag during a news conference October 18th, the same day he announced the balloon incident had been determined to be a hoax.

Let's watch him.


ALDERDEN: Clearly, from all indications, Mr. Heene has somewhat of a temper. We did our best yesterday, prior to releasing them, to get the spouse to voluntarily go to a safe house. We had our victim advocates. We talked with her at length about domestic violence, about her safety, about the children's safety...


KING: Are you a violent person?

Are you -- do you get angry easily?

R. HEENE: I get angry within myself. I get frustrated with myself. But I don't get angry at my wife. I don't get angry at my kids. And if -- if I'm angry with my kids, it's that, you know -- you know, that they're -- you know, they're fighting...

KING: You don't yell at your wife or your children?

R. HEENE: I raise my voice, but I don't yell. I mean, you understand the difference, right?

OK. But, no. I'm not a violent man. So that -- for them to get -- for you guys to bring this up, it was -- it was trash.

KING: OK. I'm just telling you what he...

R. HEENE: Right?

KING: ... The -- the -- the sheriff brought it up.

R. HEENE: Right.

KING: In his investigation, he brought it up.

Richard, by the way, engineered the balloon.

You don't call it a balloon, right?

R. HEENE: It is not a balloon. It's not a weather balloon. It's got nothing to do with weather.

KING: It's from common household items. And we're going to see how he put it all together ahead.


KING: Joining us for a few moments is Rupert Hitzig. Rupert lives here in Los Angeles. He is a friend of the Heene family. He's working on a project including a book aimed at clearing Heene's name. He does not think this was a hoax.

Why don't you think so?


KING: And Rupert by the way is -- has had some successful movies on his own. Part of them --


KING: -- with Alan King (ph). But why -- why do you not believe what the authorities have said? RUPERT HITZIG, WRITING A BOOK ABOUT THE HEENES: Based on the character that I know. And I know Mayumi better than I know Richard, because Mayumi was my editor for about four years. She's an excellent editor. And while Mayumi was editing my -- my films, I was in the place very close to Richard and his three boys. And it's an extremely strong and unique family unit.

And I even asked Richard why he wasn't -- he -- he was dreaming -- he always dreamed about new projects and new projects. And they were having some financial problems. And I asked Richard why he wasn't working at something that could bring this family some relief. He said, "Well I'm a carpenter, but I need a truck." And I thought enough of Richard at that point to go down to Toyota and cosign for a $36,000 Tundra. And that was in 2004, and every payment has been made on time.

And I just think that --


KING: So what do you make of this story?

HITZIG: I wasn't there. I just know that Falcon -- they arrived yesterday. They are staying in our -- in our back house. The three boys are just wonderful kids. The family unit is a great little family unit. When Falcon was there it was a most unique thing that happened. I was drawing in the back, and all of a sudden, Falcon was missing. Mayumi said, "Where's Falcon?" And the boys looked around. It wasn't -- we didn't find Falcon. He had climbed into some -- past our last work and gone in under the foundation, and he was hiding.

And I -- I just -- look, I'm a little bit. I'm little bit off track for your question. And the question is why do I believe it's not a hoax? Because Mayumi has told me it's, "We did not lie."

KING: And you believe them?

HITZIG: I believe Mayumi.

KING: OK. One other thing for you, Rupert? Why did he plead guilty do you think?

HITZIG: I think it's a difference between the chance of having a felony charge and a misdemeanor. I think in his particular case he just wanted it behind him. I think. I can't speak for Richard on that.

KING: Because --


HITZIG: I -- I -- and again, I --

KING: He's making the case here tonight that he's innocent.

HITZIG: I know. I -- I -- if -- (CROSSTALK)

KING: Well, all right.

HITZIG: -- the in fact the deportation was a threat, and if the chance of being accused of -- of being -- going to trial for a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor, and deportation was an alternative. He wanted the -- he wanted it out of the way as fast as he could.

KING: You do chase things. Why didn't you chase the -- what do you call it, if you don't call it a balloon -- what do you --

HEENE: It's called a 3-D LAV, Low Altitude (ph) Vehicle.

KING: Why didn't you chase it?

HEENE: I wanted to. I wanted so bad.

KING: So --

HEENE: My wife was charging the phone up -- the cell phone. I figured I should go chase it. And I stopped myself. Well maybe I better inform authorities since they're going straight for the airport. After the FAA call I wanted to jump in the vehicle and go. But the -- but the woman said, "No, you better call 911." And I said, "But I want to go chase this thing." She says, "Call 911."

KING: What woman?

HEENE: The woman with the FAA. So then I did call the 911, and I mean, you guys have the recording. You can play all that. But I -- I was there in length as I don't know -- 15 -- 20 minutes. And then I --

KING: But if you do chase things wouldn't it be the first thing you would do?

HEENE: That's what I -- that's what I wanted --


KING: Chase it for your boy.

HEENE: That's what I wanted to do. But when I climbed on the roof, and I saw this thing taking off -- gaining altitude, and speed, and it's headed straight for the airport, all I could think about is I've got to warn somebody, because I've just built this craft that could possibly kill my kid. And I just wanted him safe. And, anyway --

KING: Well then --

HITZIG: I did see the records, Larry. And I -- I do know that he made the call to 911 first. Then he called the FAA -- the --

KING: He didn't call the T.V. station -- (CROSSTALK)

HITZIG: He didn't call the T.V. station --

KING: All right.

HITZIG: -- for a good 15 minutes.

KING: All right. Let's great a break. And we'll come right back, and we'll show you what this is like. He'll show us where he thought Falcon was -- still -- look at it. We're going to go take a look at it right after this.


KING: OK. We're back with Richard Heene, and right behind us is a replica of the notorious flying saucer. For want of a better term we'll call it -- boom. Where's the original?

HEENE: The police have that in a garage. KING: All right. They have it as evidence, or was going to be evidence?

HEENE: It was going to be.

KING: This replica is the same size?

HEENE: Identical. I used the same exact jig to manufacture this one just to show you that I was never lying about the size of it. They --


KING: This looks like aluminum foil.

HEENE: Well this is your standard household aluminum foil. And the plastic is a plastic drop. It's .7 mil. And what -- what I want to show everybody is --


KING: Wait a minute.


KING: This -- someone would go in this and go up? You would go in this and go up?

HEENE: Well, this is a smaller version of what I ultimately want to make. I want to make a 30 foot one, which could lift a human, and then maybe we have races out in the desert, you know, between people. But I wanted --


KING: But this flies? HEENE: Yes. It does.

KING: OK. What do you want to show me?

HEENE: Well, I wanted to show you that I was never lying about the measurements. They had always -- everybody's questioning me, could this thing possibly lift up a little boy. You go ahead and hold onto that. And what we're going to do is measure half of the length for just one span. What do you have?

KING: I got 121.

HEENE: OK, 121 is 10 feet. OK? So you multiply that by two, you got 20 foot across. And then of course when I'm standing at around five foot eight, you can see it's quite a bit higher than I am. And I never did lie.

KING: So -- they said you were lying about a kid -- that a kid could go up in it?

HEENE: Well what they said was -- they had a Professor Jones from U -- or what is it -- CSU. Sorry the -- and they said that his original measurements said it could lift a child. Later on after they get it in the garage, they claim it's 15 feet wide by five feet high. This thing is six feet by the bands. It can expand up to six foot nine.

KING: And what is this?

HEENE: This is the center portion for which Falcon had crawled into. It's the utility compartment. And this is one foot six high. And it's a four foot circle.

KING: Now how do we know it's the same size?

HEENE: Well --

KING: I'd take your word.

HEENE: -- but you could. OK? So that's four feet across. Anybody who knows Photo Shop could take the images off the television, measure the four feet at the base, piece it in one, two, three, four, five across, and you'll see that it's 20 feet. Now why they had mis- measured it in their garage I have no idea. But I looked at the wall span, and it looked to me like the room was only 16 feet wide, and it didn't open it up.

KING: Why would somebody get into this? I mean, you wouldn't get into this to go up, would you?

HEENE: I will once I determine whether or not I have enough power to move left and right. Eventually when I build a 30 footer, it could lift 450 pounds.

KING: Does the opening to the compartment close automatically? Does it latch? HEENE: No. No. It was just cardboard. It was a piece of cardboard on a door.


KING: All right now I'm just going to keep it straight. The authorities -- I to get this right -- and many aviation experts do not think this balloon could have had the lift to take off and fly with a child of Falcon's size in it.

HEENE: Well, when you calculate how much fuel you -- that the six foot to six foot six center by 20 feet across, plus the fact that it was -- it was ballooned between the ribs, I calculated it could lift 72 pounds. But the helium just kept going in. It kept going in past where I thought it was going to be. Then I didn't know how much it had. Perhaps it had, you know, 1100 cubic feet in there.

But this portion right here weighs 19 pounds. That with the framing in it weighed up to 11 pounds.

KING: Sure feels a little flimsy, though. I mean, I -- I wouldn't go up in this.

HEENE: A lot of people would say that.


KING: But I wouldn't go up in anything. So --

HEENE: You see, this is the bottom half. Each string can lift 70 pounds. There's 19 of them around the outer perimeter. So we calculated roughly 1,300 pounds -- string tension. Obviously the bottom wouldn't hold that much as far as the plywood is concerned.

KING: Right.

HEENE: But yes.

KING: Couple other quick things. Are you sorry you plead guilty?

HEENE: I am sorry that I plead guilty. I wish I could have taken this thing to trial. I kept asking over and over why can't I plead guilty? And if I -- if I put my family through -- I'm -- I'm looking at two to three years of torture potentially, because I was going to fight to the death on this thing. And I -- I just don't want to put my kids through that.

KING: What are you going to do when you're done with your 90 day commitment?

HEENE: I've got to start a new life, you know? I mean this is just a negative setback. And I'm hoping to clear my name to let everybody know that this was not a hoax.

KING: You going to keep living where you're living? HEENE: I don't know. It depends on how the people treat me. You know? If they treat me nasty, then I guess I've got to up and leave. But so far they've been pretty good.

KING: You'll be in a -- you'll be in a jail, right? Not a prison?

HEENE: I will be in a --

KING: Ninety days you don't go to prison.

HEENE: Yes. And David -- David says that's one of the better jails. And hopefully I won't, you know, get beat up. You know?

KING: Why would you get beat up?

HEENE: I don't know. I watch movies and see people getting beat up, you know?

KING: Thanks for coming.


KING: Good luck to you.

HEENE: Thank you.

KING: The sheriff and prosecutor have been watching our interview with Richard Heene and listening closely to what he just said. And they will tell us what they think next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been hiding in a box, cart cardboard box in the attic above the garage.

FALCON HEENE, SON OF RICHARD HEENE: I was in the attic and it scared me because he yelled at me.

HEENE: I'm really sorry I yelled at him.


HEENE: You scared the heck out of us.


KING: We're joined now by two men who know this case inside and out. Sheriff Jim Alderden is the sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado, and Larry Abrahamson, Larimer County district attorney. They come to us from Ft. Collins.

Sheriff, what's your reaction to what Mr. Heene had to say tonight? SHERIFF JIM ALDERDEN, LARIMER COUNTY, COLORADO: Well, I just saw the interview that you did with him a few minutes ago and, quite honestly, I'm shocked that he would make such statements. The evidence against Mr. Heene and Mayumi at this point is really overwhelming. There's no doubt in my mind that this thing was a hoax. And I really doubt that there's very few people in America who don't understand at this point that this was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by Richard and Mayumi.

KING: Larry, what do you make of what he said?

LARRY ABRAHAMSON, LARIMER COUNTY DA: Well, it's hard to understand why he is now saying what he's saying, because this is something that was discussed very thoroughly with his attorneys, and I was under the impression, as were the other prosecutors in my office, that this was -- the hoax was very clearly established. And so it is surprising that now he is coming out and saying that he was coerced or whatever reason he is now changing his position.

KING: Richard Heene, as we know, pled guilty after his sentencing last month. He offered a short teary apology. Let's look at what he said, and when I asked him about it. Watch.


HEENE: I need to clarify, when I apologized on the clip you just showed, I was apologizing for people getting involved, OK? This was not a hoax. Never was.

KING: What was it?

HEENE: Never was.


KING: What do you make of him saying, Sheriff, that he was apologizing for apparently other things?

ALDERDEN: Well, when you listen to the interview closely, I guess you could infer that, or at least make that argument from his standpoint. But if you back up to the previous hearings, where he actually entered the guilty plea, he had to stipulate at that point that there was a factual foundation for the charges and for his guilty plea. And he did so on that date. So I think this is just an effort on his part to spin what he said and to try to rehabilitate his image.

KING: He and his wife, Larry, took polygraphs, true?

ABRAHAMSON: That's correct.

KING: And what were the results of those polygraphs?

ABRAHAMSON: Well, when the polygraphs were taken, they both -- hers was deceptive, and so then, very shortly after that, is when she basically made her statement, and admitted that the whole thing was a hoax, and it was planned by her and her husband, and the kids were also informed of what they were going to do.

His polygraph I don't think was completed, because the fact that he was doing some things that would make it unreliable. So I don't think his was ever completed.

KING: After the sentencing, both of you indicated you thought it was appropriate. Have you changed your mind on that, based on what he's saying now? Do you think he -- having to do it over again, sheriff, he should get more time?

ALDERDEN: No, I really don't think so. I mean, this was a giant hoax perpetrated on everybody. I think people are upset about it. Obviously, there's a lot of resources that were wasted. But the fact is, as over-crowded as our jails are, as over-crowded as our judicial system is, you know, a longer jail sentence really wouldn't serve the interests of justice and I think it's fair, given the issues and complexity of the things that we're dealing with here in our criminal justice system.

KING: what about the statement, Larry, that they were going to deport his wife?

ABRAHAMSON: Well, initially, the news report was -- and I believe it was a statement. And I don't know if it came from his attorney or where, that they were concerned about her being deported if she pled to a felony, and they were being forced into this plea. Her deportation was never an issue on the table. That was something they perhaps talked about among themselves. But it was nothing we laid on the table and said listen, this is what we need to have, this is what you're risking. This was something, apparently, they had discussed, but it was never a bargaining chip from our perspective. And I don't think it even came up in discussions, other than perhaps they're trying to figure out if that was a possibility.

KING: We'll be right back with the response to the Heene interview from Sheriff Jim Alderden and district attorney Larry Abrahamson right after this.


KING: Sheriff Alderden held several news conferences as the balloon boy case unfolded back in October. But not everything he said to the media was totally accurate and then he knew it. We have two clips. The first October 16th, the day after the incident. The second the 18th, the day the sheriff declared it had all been a hoax. Watch.


ALDERDEN: We were convinced yesterday, after talking to the parents and having investigators on scene during the duration of this event, that the parents were being honest with us.

It's not a criminal offense to, perhaps, lie to them to get them in here or establish a relationship to get them in here. I personally have to say I feel very bad, and I think we came up and bumped against the line of misleading the media. And boy, that is something I really take to heart that we don't do.


KING: sheriff, what happened in the two days?

ALDERDEN: Well, on the first day when we approached the media and dealt with them, the investigators really did believe that this thing still was legitimate and that it was not a hoax. Some of us had our doubts. But, you know, it was really kind of a split decision.

We decided we needed to get the Heenes in here and gain their cooperation in order to, perhaps, polygraph them and get a confession. That was the only way we were going to get to the bottom of this. If I had put out anything to the media that would cause the Heenes to suspect that we suspected them, I think we would have lost that cooperation.

So it was real important for me to at least put on a face to the public that we didn't have any real legitimate suspicions at that point. Obviously, some of us did. When they came in and confessed it was necessary to reveal the hoax.

Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut and not been honest and told everybody that we had our doubts. But that's not the way we operate. I'm culpable for that. In the interest of justice, I felt it was necessary to do that at that time.

KING: You appeared to be between a rock and hard place. Do you think the media understand that?

ALDERDEN: I think the majority of the media did. I have had several high-profile media personalities in Colorado contact me and tell me it was acceptable. And, quite honestly, immediately after our first press conference, I confided in several of the media people about what our doubts were, and the fact that -- what the strategy was to get them in.

KING: We'll be right back with Sheriff Jim Alderden and Larry Abrahamson right after this.


KING: Larry Abrahamson, what is your opinion of Mr. Heene? What do you think of him?

ABRAHAMSON: Well, it -- you know, all I know of him is what I've seen and what I observed in the courtroom, what I've seen on the media. But from what I understand he's an actor. He's taken acting lessons. He originally came up with the hoax idea that was later shown to be untrue. And now he's sort of back-pedalling, again, and for what reason I'm not sure.

He claims it's because he's trying to protect his wife. But that was pretty well aired in the discussion with his attorney and his attorneys' discussions with him, I'm sure. You know, I'm not sure what his motivation is at this point. I thought this thing had ended in a way that everybody was reasonably satisfied with the conclusion. And now this. So I'm not sure where he's going with this.

KING: Sheriff, do you ever feel a little sorry for him? He certainly appears good at getting empathy.

ALDERDEN: Well, he does. No, I have no empathy or sympathy for the Heenes at this point. He put this whole thing in motion. I think maybe there's an adage about being careful what you wish for. He wanted publicity and he certainly got it. I'm not sure it's the kind he wanted.

KING: What would you guess is the long-range effect, Larry, on the kids?

ABRAHAMSON: Well, that's hard to say. You know, the Department of Human Services interviewed the kids, and they felt that, at this point in time, at least, there wasn't any compelling reason to take them out of the home. But, you know you, you think something that has this much exposure in the media and everything going on around the family, that the kids are going to have a reaction somehow.

I would hope that the kids can see this for what it is, and that it's not going to affect them. I'm concerned now, of course, with the new statements that Mr. Heene is making, and how confused the kids must be about all of this. So, you know, it's hard to say. I would hope it's not going to have an effect that's going to be disastrous on the kids, or something that's going to cause difficulty. You know, it's hard to say at this point.

KING: Sheriff, where will he serve his time?

ALDERDEN: Well, he'll do his 30 days right next to the building we're in now, Larry, at the Larimer County Detention Center. And after the 30 days, I assume he's going to go to work release, if he qualifies. That will be in a building or actually an addition to the jail. It's a non-secure facility. And he'd be allowed to go to his day job and then return at night.

KING: That starts Monday. What if he doesn't have a day job?

ALDERDEN: Well, if he doesn't have a day job, there's a possibility he could just have to do the straight 90 days in the detention center, instead of being in work release.

KING: And will the wife serve in the same place?

ALDERDEN: She'll serve in the same place, or at least checking in. I believe she's going to going to a program we call work enders, which is different. Those are inmates who come in, usually on a Saturday morning. They're sent out on an inmate work crew, working for public service agencies or non-profits, and for eight hours. Then they come back. They're released. They go home. They come back the next day, and they do that two days a week until their sentence is served.

KING: Thank you both very much for clearing things up. Sheriff Jim Alderden, the sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado, there in Ft. Collins, and Larry Abrahamson, the district attorney for Larimer County. Thank you both very much.

ALDERDEN: You're welcome.

KING: been quite a night. Speaking of the night, it's that time of night. "Anderson Cooper 360" right now.