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Twin YouTube stars Alan and Alex Stokes will face no jail time after pleading guilty last week in connection with two “prank” videos where they pretended to have robbed a bank, leading to an uninvolved Uber driver being held at gunpoint by police.
Dressed all in black, wearing ski masks and carrying duffel bags full of cash, the 22-year-old Stokes brothers ordered an Uber in October 2019 while pretending to have just robbed a bank in Irvine, California, according to a press release by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The driver, who was unaware of the ruse, refused to drive them when they got in the vehicle – and a bystander called police.
Officers arrived and ordered the driver out of the car at gunpoint, later releasing him when they realized he wasn’t involved in the supposed theft, according to the release. They then confronted the brothers, who admitted that they were filming a prank, and let the twins go with a warning.
Four hours later, police responded to a call at the University of California, Irvine about another alleged bank robbery, according to the release. It was another ruse by the brothers, who were again let go without being arrested.
The Stokeses uploaded a video of their escapades to their YouTube channel under the title, “BANK ROBBER PRANK! (gone wrong).” The video amassed over 1 million views before being deleted, PEOPLE reports.
Almost 10 months went by without the twins facing any legal action. Then, in August 2020, prosecutors announced that they were charging each of the Stokes brothers with one felony count of false imprisonment involving violence, menace, fraud or deceit, as well as one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, according to a press release by the District Attorney’s Office.
The brothers would have faced up to five years in prison if convicted on all counts.
The twins’ attorneys objected vigorously to the charges, pointing to how much time had passed since the incident and to the fact that police chose not to arrest the YouTubers at the time, according to a statement by the law firm Wallin & Klarich.
“We can say without hesitation that our clients are in fact not guilty of any crimes,” the attorneys wrote.
But the twins later struck a deal with the court, each agreeing to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment in exchange for 160 hours of community service, one year of probation, and restitution payments. The court also banned the brothers from the University of California, Irvine’s campus and ordered them to stop making videos pretending they’d committed crimes.
The court reached this decision over objections from the prosecution, which stressed the seriousness of the brothers’ actions.
“These crimes could have easily resulted in someone being hurt of killed. An active bank robbery is not a casual police response and these police officers were literally risking their lives to help people they believed were in danger,” Todd Spritzer, the Orange County district attorney, said in the release.
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