Alan and Alex Stokes, twin brothers who rose to fame on YouTube filming prank videos, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment and reporting false emergencies in connection with a pair of now-removed videos they filmed in the fall of 2019 in which they pretended to have just robbed a bank. The 23-year-old brothers were charged in August of last year.
They faced a maximum of five years in prison if convicted on all counts, leading to the guilty plea in exchange for reduced sentences, according to a press release put out dated March 31st by the office of the district attorney of Orange County, California.
“The guilty pleas were in exchange for a judge reducing the felony false imprisonment charge to a misdemeanor. Prosecutors objected on the record and in a trial brief to the court’s offer to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor,” the press release states.
“These crimes could have easily resulted in someone being seriously hurt or killed.”
Both received a sentence including 160 hours of community service and one year of probation in addition to both having to pay restitution. The Stokes brothers are also barred from returning to the University of California Irvine, where they filmed the prank videos, and they were also ordered not to produce any more videos “that mimic criminal behavior.”
The videos in question involved the Stokes brothers dressing in black garb with face masks filming themselves interacting with strangers, some of whom were distraught at the prospect of encountering what they believed were on-the-run criminals.
In one poorly thought-out situation filmed for the videos, the brothers called an Uber driver and demanded they be taken somewhere. The driver refused, but he was later questioned by law enforcement who initially approached the man with their guns drawn, mistakenly believing he was involved after numerous bystanders called law enforcement on the brothers for thinking they were attempting to carjack the driver.
The brothers pulled this prank twice in the same day on October 15th, 2019, choosing to film the second of the two videos at the University of California Irvine after already having been questioned and released by police elsewhere in Orange County earlier in the day.
“These crimes could have easily resulted in someone being seriously hurt or killed,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “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. It is irresponsible and reckless that these two individuals cared more about increasing their number of followers on the internet than the safety of those police officers or the safety of the innocent Uber driver who was ordered out of his car at gunpoint.”
The Stokes Twins YouTube channel remains active with more than 6.6 million subscribers. The most recent video, titled “FUNNY April Fool’s Pranks on Friends!,” was posted two days ago, and it’s already amassed 1.4 million views.