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YouTubers' Prank Almost Killed a Guy. Now, Guilty Pleas

Alan and Alex Stokes escape jail, get community service and probation
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2021 10:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Twin YouTube stars who were facing up to five years behind bars for a pair of bank robbery pranks have managed to avoid prison with guilty pleas. Against the objections of prosecutors, a California judge agreed to reduce the felony false imprisonment charge to a misdemeanor if Alan and Alex Stokes pleaded guilty, per KCBS. They did so, as the Orange County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday. They also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting an emergency. Prosecutors said the 23-year-olds were in all-black clothing, including ski masks, and carrying duffel bags full of cash as they pretended to run from a bank in Irvine, Calif., on Oct. 15, 2019. The men, who were being filmed, called an Uber, but the man behind the wheel refused to drive them. A bystander then called police, who ordered the driver out of the car at gunpoint.

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The DA's office said the brothers were let off with a warning. But police were called again hours later as the men performed a similar prank at the University of California-Irvine. District Attorney Todd Spitzer said their crimes "could have easily resulted in someone being seriously hurt or killed," but "these two individuals cared more about increasing their number of followers on the internet" than the safety of others involved. The Stokes—who have 6.6 million followers on YouTube and almost 30 million on TikTok, per the San Jose Mercury News—uploaded a since-deleted video about the pranks. They were each sentenced to 160 hours of community service and a year of formal probation, as well as ordered to pay unspecified restitution. They also must stay away from UC Irvine and "stop making videos that mimic criminal behavior," per the DA's office. (Read more guilty plea stories.)

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