Choking back tears, Richard Heene apologized for the elaborate "Balloon Boy" hoax that captivated the nation, and said he especially wanted to apologize to rescue workers who tirelessly chased the silver balloon they believed held 6-year-old Falcon Heene.
Photo: Richard and Mayumi Heene arrive at court for sentencing on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009
Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail including 60 days of work release, and four years probation, by a Larimer County judge Wednesday. The judge also granted a prosecution request that Richard Heene be barred from profiting from the incident in any way for four years.
Photo: Six-year-old Falcon Heene is shown with his father, Richard, outside the family's home in Fort Collins, Colo., Oct. 15, 2009.
During the same hearing, represented by her own lawyer, Mayumi Heene was sentenced to 20 days in jail.
Photo: A rescue worker chases down the Heene aircraft believed to carry Falcon Heene
What came to be known as the "Balloon Boy" saga began on Oct. 15, 2009 when a large silver balloon came loose from its moorings in the Heenes' yard and drifted over eastern Colorado. Mayumi Heene called 911 and said the couple's 6-year-old son, Falcon, was inside the craft.
Photo: The Balloon-like aircraft landed in a field in Colorado.
Millions of people across the country watched the saga on television for nearly two hours as military aircraft tracked the balloon in the air and rescuers chased it below. When the boy was not found in the balloon an area-wide search began for what many believed would be the dead body of young Falcon Heene.
Falcon later surfaced, without a scratch, from a hiding place in the attic of the Heene home and it was later discovered, through accidental slips on national television by Falcon Heene and eventually a full confession by Mayumi Heene, that the whole thing was a publicity-seeking hoax.
The couple had previously appeared on ABC's reality series "Wife Swap" and reportedly had a new reality show concept to pitch.
In his argument during sentencing, Richard Heene's defense attorney said the ensuing national outcry for justice became an outcry for vengeance and his client is being punished not for his actions but for the reactions. He likened the "Balloon Boy" hoax to the Orson Wells radio show "War of the Worlds" in 1938 which caused mass hysteria as listeners believed there was an actual Martian invasion taking place.
The judge delayed the date the Heenes must begin serving their time to January 11, in part to allow them to spend the holidays with their three sons and to allow Richard Heene to wrap up business deals he had in progress. No word if one of those deals is a reality show.
MORE ON CRIMESIDER
December 22, 2009 - "Balloon Boy" Stunt Wasn't Cheap! Richard and Mayumi Heene Could Face $43,000 in Fines
October 26, 2009 - "Balloon Boy" Family Says Sheriff Talks Too Much; Heene Lawyers Want Criminal Probe
October 26, 2009 - "Balloon Boy" Sheriff Jim Alderden Blogs About God, Guns, and Gay Rights
October 22, 2009 - Balloon Mom Will "Go Down With the Ship"
October 21, 2009 - Could Child Protective Services Take Balloon Boy from Richard and Mayumi Heene?
October 20, 2009 - Balloon Boy Story Keeps Floating: Police Question Richard Heene's Associate Robert Thomas
October 19, 2009 Balloon Boy Dad Richard Heene, Not His First Close Encounter With the Law
October 19, 2009 - Richard Heene, Balloon Boy's Father, Wears Bra, Makeup While Ranting on YouTube
October 19, 2009 - Aliens Spoke to Balloon Boy's Father Richard Heene at a Fast-Food Restaurant
October 19, 2009 - Balloon Boy Dad Richard Heene Thinks World Will End in 2012; Will He Be Out of Jail by Then
October 19, 2009 - Balloon Boy Family's Homophobic Rant in Rap Video
October 19, 2009 - "Mad Scientist" Richard Heene Cooked Up Balloon Boy Hoax Months Ago, Says Denver Man
October 16, 2009 - Balloon Boy Drama Was "Real Event," Says Sheriff
October 16, 2009 - Balloon Boy Falcon Heene 911 Call Released
October 16, 2009 - It Sure Wasn't Altitude Sickness, But Balloon Boy Falcon Heene Throws Up Twice on National TV