The lawyers for YouTube celebrities the Stokes Twins say their clients, charged with false imprisonment and swatting in Orange County, California, are innocent.
Alan and Alex Stokes were charged in August in connection with two fake bank robberies that resulted in their Uber driver, who was not involved in the prank, being held at gunpoint by police.
“We have reviewed all of the discovery provided to our offices in this case. We can say without hesitation that our clients are in fact not guilty of any crimes,” said Alex’s attorneys Matthew Wallin and Paul Wallin and Alan’s attorney Mark A. Gallagher in a joint news release obtained by CNN on Thursday.
“The District Attorney’s office will have to explain why they would wait almost ten months after the alleged crime was committed to issue a press release without arresting our clients or even notifying them of this decision prior to issuing a press release.”
According to an August news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the popular internet pranksters — who have almost 5 million subscribers on YouTube — were each charged with one felony count of false imprisonment effected by violence, menace, fraud or deceit, as well as one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency in connection with the October 2019 pranks.
The misdemeanor charge is commonly referred to as “swatting,” or calling the police to falsely report a crime or emergency and lure them to someone else’s location. In previous instances, swatting has sometimes been fatal for those unwittingly involved.
The 23-year-olds each face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts.
Witness to prank called police
The brothers are accused of pretending to rob a bank upon ordering an Uber in October 2019, the district attorney’s office said last month. The driver refused to pick them up, and the pair’s videographer was recording the incident.
A witness to the exchange believed the Stokes had robbed a bank and were attempting to carjack the driver. When police arrived, they ordered the driver out at gunpoint, but released him after determining he was not involved.
The release said police issued a warning to the brothers and let them go. Hours later, police received emergency calls about the pair allegedly repeating the behavior on the University of California, Irvine, campus.
The lawyers for the brothers said that not only did the officers release the pair, they also allegedly made suggestions as to how the brothers could continue to make YouTube videos in the future.
One brother contacted the Irvine Police Department’s non-emergency line on two different occasions to give them notice of their planned prank, the release said.
The district attorney’s office continues to pursue the case.
“We only file cases where we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County D.A.’s Office, told CNN. “I don’t want to give the impression that that behavior is OK.”
When the charges were announced in August, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer called the fake robberies a “twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet” that endangered the public and police.
“These were not pranks,” Spitzer said. “These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed.”
Edds said the brothers were arraigned August 24 and pleaded not guilty to all charges. They were released on their own recognizance and will next appear in court on October 27.