"This whole deal is designed to keep the family together," says Richard Heene's lawyer

By Michelle Tauber and Vickie Bane
Updated November 13, 2009 12:30 PM

Appearing in a Ft. Collins, Colo., courtroom Friday, Richard and Mayumi Heene – the parents of “Balloon Boy” Falcon Heene – pled guilty to charges related to the Oct. 15 hoax involving Falcon’s fake “flight” aboard a saucer-shaped balloon.

“This whole deal is designed to keep the family together,” says Richard’s attorney David Lane. The couple’s kids – Falcon, 6, Bradford, 10, and Ryo, 8 – “seem like happy, well-adjusted kids,” says Lane. “[They have] huddled together as a family. These are well cared for and well-loved kids.”

Lane says the children would have been most traumatized if “they would have seen their parents taken away in cuffs.” Although the judge raised the possibility that Mayumi – a Japanese citizen – could still be deported, Lane says, “only the Feds have the power to deport … the judge was just being cautious.”

A subdued Richard Heene, 48, appeared first and pled guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant. He will be sentenced on Dec. 23 and could face 90 days in jail and a $500,000 fine. He also may be responsible for restitution, which the Associated Press estimates at $62,000.

Next up was Mayumi Heene, who pled guilty to the misdemeanor count of false reporting to authorities. Her sentencing will also be Dec. 23, and she could face up to 60 days in jail and a $750 dollar fine.

Richard Heene also requested that bond be modified so he can seek employment next week in New York and California.

Lane declined to discuss what kind of employment Heene might seek, saying only, “Richard can’t own a firearm [as a felon], but other than that he is a free person to do whatever any free person does.”

Might he profit from the hoax?

“Colorado has a statute that prohibits him from profiting from wrongdoing,” says Lane.