Most people think pranks are only funny until someone gets seriously hurt, but some people want to push things as far as possible, especially if it gets them YouTube views. In fact, that’s exactly what got YouTubers DaddyOFive and CJ So Cool in legal trouble and why twin YouTubers Alan and Alex Stokes were recently arrested and are now facing criminal charges in Orange County.
Criminal Pranks on YouTube
The Stokes Brothers are best known for performing pranks on their YouTube channel. In October, they decided to film a video pretending they had robbed a bank, when things went wrong. They dressed in all black with ski masks and carried multiple duffel bags filled with cash, then ordered an Uber while sitting outside the bank. Unaware of what was happening, the driver refused to give them a ride. When a bystander witnessed this, he called the police, saying he thought the two young men were attempting a car jacking.
Unfortunately for the Uber driver, when police arrived, they believed the driver was involved in a bank robbery and they forced him out of the car at gunpoint. Eventually he was released when police realized he was uninvolved with the whole situation. The police realized the whole thing was just a dumb prank and let the Stokes off with a warning, letting them know that behavior like this could be dangerous (an innocent Uber driver did just have a gun to his head, after all) so it should not be repeated.
Where most people would count themselves lucky after an encounter like this and walk away, the YouTubers didn’t feel like they got the footage they were looking for and then performed a nearly identical prank at the campus of the University of California, Irvine. Once again, bystanders called the police, this time reporting a bank robbery. When police realized it was the same young men they just let off with a warning, the two were arrested.
They have since been charged with both Alex and Alan stokes each facing a misdemeanor SWATTING charge and a felony false imprisonment charge.
What is SWATTING?
Formerly known as falsely reporting an emergency, this crime generally is filed against those who call 9-11 or other emergency service to report an urgent situation, which is defined as a situation that results in:
- an evacuation
- the response of any emergency vehicle
- an Amber alert
Although it’s most commonly a result of someone falsely reporting an emergency against someone else, this charge can also be filed against someone who causes a report to be made. While obviously a simple misunderstanding shouldn’t result in charges being filed, when someone intentionally makes it look as though they are committing a crime, for example, setting up two different fake robberies, the charges are real and serious.
This offense is generally punishable by up to one year in jail. Offenders are also required to pay the city or county for any expenses related to emergency service responses used as a result of the crime, up to $10,000. While it didn’t happen in this case, if someone suffers great bodily injury as a result of this crime, it can be charged as a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison.
False Imprisonment Charges in California
Like falsely reporting an emergency, false imprisonment charges are usually only filed against someone who actively detains, restrains or confines someone. In rare cases, such as this one though, the charges can be filed against someone who caused someone to be detained by someone else as a result of violence, menace, fraud or deceit.
The maximum charge for a felony charge of false imprisonment is three years in prison. It’s likely the Stokes brothers’ lawyer will be able to have this charge reduced to a misdemeanor though, which is punishable by one year in jail instead.
That being said, this isn’t something the prosecutor is taking lightly. “These were not pranks,” said District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed. Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect the public and when someone calls 911 to report an active bank robbery they are going to respond to protect lives. Instead, what they found was some kind of twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet by unnecessarily putting members of the public and police officers in danger.” Attorney Peter Liss believes the focus on likes and views has caused some people to endanger the lives of others. This is really the new social media version of not having business ethics and a moral compass.
If you have been accused of performing any criminal pranks or similar charges as these YouTubers, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with Peter M. Liss.
Image by parameciorecords