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Twin YouTube Stars Charged With Felonies After Fake Bank Robbery Video

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  • The Stokes Twins, who have 25 million TikTok followers and 4.8 million YouTuber subscribers, were charged with false imprisonment and swatting on Wednesday in connection to a fake bank robbery prank video they filmed in October 2019. 
  • In the video, they run around the Irvine, California area dressed in all black, with ski masks and duffle bags full of cash to make it seem like they had just committed a crime.
  • The prank resulted in their Uber driver being held at gunpoint by police, who authorities later learned was not involved. Even after police issued the duo a warning, they continued to carry out their prank on the UC Irvine campus. 
  • Each face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts. 

Stoke Twins in Trouble 

A pair of brothers known online as the Stokes Twins are in serious legal trouble over a fake bank robbery prank video they uploaded to their YouTube channel last year. 

The brothers are 23-year-old Alan and Alex Stokes, and they have 4.8 million followers on YouTube, where they post challenge videos, pranks, and other content. They also have over 25 million followers on their joint TikTok account. 

On Wednesday the Orange County District Attorney’s office in California announced that they had each been charged in connection with their robbery prank. 

The DA’s office said the video at the center of this case was filmed on October 15, 2019. However, in the video, the twins say it was filmed over the course of three days. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it had more than 1.4 million views before it was set to private sometime yesterday. Still, reuploads of the prank have already been posted and shared, along with more details about what happened when it was filmed thanks to a press release from the DA’s office. 

What Happens in the Prank Video?

In the video, the pair dresses up in all black with ski masks and duffle bags full of cash to make those around them believe they have just committed a crime. Much of the video is filmed in the Irvine area and UC Irvine campus, where the two run around to catch people’s attention, sometimes tripping and spilling cash onto the ground.

In some parts of the video, they approach strangers and ask for directions to the nearest bank. “Do you know how tight their security is?” one brother says after getting directions from a group of students. “I’m just going to make a large withdrawal if you know what I mean.”

A short time later, they return to anyone they previously approached and offer them money for their help. “Hey man, I just wanted to give you this cause I would have never gotten this without your help,” one brother says. 

At other points, they ask people if they can buy their clothes off of them and approach women to ask them out on dates, showing off their bags of cash. They even ask some women to help them commit their fake crimes.

“So I’m actually trying to rob a bank and I’m looking for an attractive female to distract the security guards. Would you be down to do that?” they ask.

The video ends with extra footage from these encounters, where the two explain that it was all a prank and people admit that they saw the cameraman or suspected it was a joke. 

Stunt With Uber Driver Goes Wrong 

Still, there were some people who didn’t think it was a joke at all. At one point in the video, the twins get into an Uber and the driver quickly becomes uncomfortable by the situation they’ve put him in.

“What is this?” the driver asks. “Uh, our getaway driver just bailed on us so uh,” one twin says.

“We’re going to like a costume party…Could you step on it? Like step on the gas,” they add.

“This is weird. It’s not funny. Okay, I can’t just take this ride. Just get out of my car please.” the driver tells the twins.

According to the DA’s office, a bystander saw this exchange and believed they were attempting to carjack the driver, so they called the police. When authorities responded, they ordered the driver out of the car at gunpoint. He was ultimately released after they determined that he was not involved.

Police also issued a warning to the brothers at that time about how dangerous their conduct was and let them go, which the twins actually include in the video. 

When the brothers explain that its a prank, one officer says, “A public prank that gets about 15 police officers in the area hauling butt over here cause you guys are pulling off masks.

One of the twins explains that he called the non-emergency police number and notified them of the days they would be filming their video. The officer responds with, “This is what’s going to get someone potentially gunstuck or someone hurt. We have people stopping the middle of the street because they’re watching this, guys pulling up ski masks, throwing stuff of the ground, changing clothes.”

One of the brothers explains that most people were laughing and he didn’t expect this to happen, seeming to admit that they took it too far. The officers continue to try to explain the seriousness of the situation to them, with one saying, “Dude, this about what’s going on nowadays. Think about it man you’ve got to be smarter than that.” 

“You know better…I want you guys to be creative and do what you want to do, but you’ve got to be smarter than this. What do you think people are going to do? Right, and you’ve lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn at you. You’re absolutely lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn at you.”

The officers remain calm, warning them to be careful and advising them to maybe rent a space or a controlled area for future videos instead. Because the brothers placed this at the end of the video, you might believe that maybe the twins realized what they did wrong and were learning from their mistake.

However, according to the press release, the brothers performed the prank on the University campus four hours after police initially spoke to them. 

In fact, they even laugh about how they’ve had the police call on them throughout the day when talking to others that they pranked on campus. 

They tell one group of students about the incident with the Uber driver adding, “The Uber driver kicked us out of the car. One minute later, there were like 10 cop cars that pulled out guns on him. They were like rifles. They thought he was the getaway driver guns so they had like 15 guns put up. He’s like ‘I’m not even a part of this.’ So yeah, poor guy.”

What Were They Charged With? 

The brothers have each been charged with one felony count of false imprisonment affected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, and one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, which is often referred to as swatting. They both face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts.

When announcing the charges, D.A. Todd Spitzer condemned their actions, saying in a statement, “These were not pranks.”

“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.”

The brothers have no made any public comments about the charges as of now. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN

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Carole Baskin Faces Defamation Suit Brought on by Family of Missing Husband

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  • “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin’s has been sued for defamation by the family of her missing husband, Don Lewis.
  • They claim Baskin is complicit in jokes about his death that appeared on the latest season of “Dancing With the Stars,” where she is currently a contestant.
  • Many believe Baskin played a part in Lewis’ disappearance. and maybe even murdered him, though Baskin has repeatedly denied this.
  • She told TMZ that any jokes about killing or murder in the show are not about Lewis and are actually about the murder-for-hire plots taken against her.

Don Lewis’s Family Sues Carole Baskin

Big Cat Rescue Founder and “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin is facing a defamation suit from the family of her missing husband, Don Lewis. 

The cat lover is on this season of “Dancing With The Stars,” but a few remarks that appeared on the show have now landed her in hot water. Lewis’ three daughters and former assistant think that Baskin has been complicit in jokes about his death that were made on the show. 

Lewis disappeared in 1997 and was legally declared dead in 2002, but the case into his disappearance is still open. After the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” became one of the most talked about shows of the year, many who watched it became convinced that Baskin killed or hired someone to kill him. She has repeatedly denied this. 

TMZ obtained court documents that reveal what comments Lewis’ family found to be insensitive. Judges on the show joked about TikToks that reference the theory that Baskin killed Lewis. These videos use a song parodying Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” replacing her lyrics with “Carole Baskin, killed her husband, whacked him. Can’t convince me that it didn’t happen. Fed him to tigers, they snackin.”

Lewis’ family believes that Baskin should have spoken out against these jokes, as well as another comment made by a judge who said she “didn’t quite kill the paso double, it was kind of sedated.” Lewis’ daughters found the references to killing and sedation inappropriate. 

The suit also accuses Baskin of playing along and making jokes of her own. During an appearance on Good Morning America, Baskin said she was ready to “really kill it next week.” The family said this was yet another nod to Lewis’ disappearance and theories that she killed him. 

Responses to Suit

The Lewis Family’s lawyer, Jon Phillips, spoke to Entertainment Tonight about this lawsuit. In addition to filing for defamation, they filed for various breaches. Back in 1998, Baskin paid $50,000 in a settlement for libel and slander claims related to this.

“These exact same false statements, and additional ones, are being made again in 2020. It is malicious,” Phillips told Entertainment Tonight. He also told the outlet that Baskin’s current husband Howard is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. 

Baskin dismissed the allegations that she was making jokes about Lewis while on “Dancing With The Stars.” She said the idea that she is referencing him when using phrases like “killing it” is a “stretch.”

Baskin told TMZ that any jokes about murder or killing on the show refer to animal abusers who have tried to kill her. Joe Exotic, the main subject of “Tiger King,” is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for a slew of charges, two of which are related to a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin. 

Ad Taken Out During DWTS

This is not the first “Dancing With The Stars”-related scuffle Baskin and Lewis’ family have had since she joined the show’s cast. During the season premiere, his three daughters, former assistant, and Phillips ran an ad about his disappearance that played in local Florida markets. It offered a $100,000 reward for information related to his case. 

“Don Lewis mysteriously disappeared in 1997. His family deserves answers,” Phillips said in the ad. “They deserve justice. Do you know who did this? Or if Carole Baskin was involved?”

While speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Lewis said that the family chose to run that ad so they could put their side of the story in the public eye. 

“Carole Baskin goes on YouTube, Facebook and does blogs every single day getting out her narrative,” Phillips explained. “It’s landed her on a major TV show, Dancing with the Stars…There was Tiger King — and it focused on the exotic animal industry — but a lot of it was about the death and disappearance of Don Lewis.”

“So [Lewis’ family] wanted their message out there. They wanted, at least locally, to counter message Carole Baskin’s, in their mind, lies and fraud,” he added.

Baskin thought the ad was nothing more than a PR move. 

“I believe their actions are just a publicity stunt, but if it helps us find Don, then that will be a huge relief,” she said in a statement emailed to CNN.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (Entertainment Tonight) (New York Post)

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Former Ellen Staffers Criticize Talk Show Host’s Apology Monologue

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  • When Ellen DeGeneres returned to her show on Monday, she addressed the numerous reports about the toxic work environment that allegedly existed behind the scenes. She apologized to those who were affected and said changes had been made going forward. 
  • The accusations stated that issues at the show stemmed from top-level producers. Some former staffers said they faced intimidation tactics, racism, and sexual assault and harassment.
  • Her monologue addressing these allegations was praised by some, including singer Demi Lovato, who was happy to see the talk show host return to the studio.
  • However, former employees felt the apology was insincere and self-serving. Some thought that it was inappropriate for DeGeneres to make jokes during it considering the serious nature of the accusations.

Ellen Addresses Allegations

During the opening monologue of her 18th season premiere on Monday, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres addressed the bombshell accusations about the toxic work environment that allegedly existed for employees behind the scenes.

Former staffers, however, were not impressed with what she had to say. 

“How was everybody’s summer, good?” DeGeneres asked in the show’s open. “Mine was great! Super terrific!” 

This joke refers to the several reports that came out over the summer detailing allegations of intimidation tactics, racism, harassment, and more on the set of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Three top producers were also accused of sexual harassment and assault.

Following the reports, WarnerMedia opened an investigation into the show’s workplace, and those three producers were fired in August as a result. In August, the show also announced that its staff will get extra perks, including more paid time off days, birthdays off, as well as paid time for doctors appointments and family matters.

The reports pulled back the curtain on the show, which prides itself on its “Be Kind” mantra. While what went on television may have been filled with dancing and laughter, former staffers said that the toxic culture behind the scenes started with producers at the very top. While DeGeneres herself was not directly implicated in the accusations, many said that since it’s her show, it’s her responsibility.

In her first appearance since everything unfolded, DeGeneres addressed the allegations and apologized for the pain the toxic work culture on her show may have caused. 

“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected,” she said. “I know that I am in a position of privilege and power and with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.” 

She then moved on to discuss the ideas that her preachings of kindness were fake, and that she is not who she appears to be on television.

DeGeneres explained that she first began ending her show with the saying “be kind to one another” to honor a young boy named Tyler Clementi who took his life after he was bullied for being gay. She thought the message was important then and was equally important now but said being known as the ‘be kind lady’ has put her in a tricky position. 

“So let me give you some advice out there,” she joked. “If anybody’s thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the ‘be kind’ lady. Don’t do it.”

She further added that while she is who the audience sees on TV, she is also more. She explained that she sometimes gets mad, sad, and impatient, but is working on it. She closed her monologue by saying she wants her show to be an hour of escapism for laughter and announced that her DJ Stephen “tWitch” Boss was promoted to co-executive producer.

DeGeneres posted the monologue to her Instagram page where numerous celebrities, including Demi Lovato, Ellie Kemper, and Scott Foley commented in support of the talk show host. 

“You are the person people see on TV. You are kind, generous and caring,” Lovato wrote. “This video was a perfect representation of that. I love you Ellen.”

Criticism of Monologue

Not everyone was satisfied with her remarks. BuzzFeed News, which broke a lot of the allegations about the show, spoke to current and former employees who said her monologue was insensitive and tone deaf. 

“Not only did Ellen turn my trauma, turn our traumas, into a joke, she somehow managed to make this about her,” one former staffer said. 

“When you’re talking about people who have accused her leadership of the seriousness of sexual misconduct, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have jokes in the monologue,” another claimed.

Others thought it would have been more appropriate for DeGeneres or other executives to personally reach out to those who had been affected by the toxic workplace. A current employee on the show said that while she is amazed that DeGeneres decided to address it on the show, she found the monologue to be “tactical.” She said that DeGeneres was only bringing it up to pull viewers back in for premiere week. 

TV critics also panned her monologue. Daniel D’Add wrote for Variety that her words “had a feeling of obligation, and of being over it all.” In The Daily Beast, Kevin Fallon said her speech worked harder to fix her reputation than it did to address the actual issues. 

“It’s depressing when there’s a palpable sense from people in power that the experiences of those beneath them don’t matter,” Fallon wrote, later noting that while there were flaws in the monologue, he still found the fact that she chose to address the allegations on air “monumental.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Entertainment Weekly) (Slate)

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Judge Sides With Nicki Minaj in Tracy Chapman Copyright Dispute

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  • Nicki Minaj recorded her song “Sorry” in 2017, which featured lyrics and melodies from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”
  • When Chapman repeatedly refused to give Minaj licensing permission for the track, it was dropped from Minaj’s 2018 “Queen” album. However, the song later leaked on the radio and online, prompting Chapman to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against Minaj.
  • Chapman accused her of distributing the song to a radio DJ and claimed she shouldn’t have even been allowed to record it. 
  • Minaj’s team denied distributing the song and warned that artists need to be able to experiment with existing material without worrying that they could be sued once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license. 
  • A judge sided with Minaj Wednesday, saying her demo song falls under fair use, adding, “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”

The Two Songs 

A judge has ruled in favor of Nicki Minaj on Wednesday in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against her by fellow singer Tracy Chapman.

Music lovers and members of the industry have had a close eye on this case, believing it could have a huge impact on the music industry.

The suit stems from a 2017 song Minaj recorded featuring Nas called “Sorry.” At the time, the rapper was reportedly under the impression that the song was a remake of a one created by artist Shelly Thunder. However, she later discovered that most of the lyrics and some of the melody came from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”

After learning this, Minaj’s representatives reached out to Chapman for permission to use the song, but Chapman repeatedly refused. According to Chapman, she had a blanket policy against granting such permission, so in 2018, Minaj dropped her “Queen” album without the song “Sorry.”

The unreleased track then somehow made its way into the hands of a New York radio DJ known as Funkmaster Flex, who played it on air. Portions of the track also later aired on “The Breakfast Club,” before leaking online. 

The Lawsuit 

In response, Chapman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit accusing Minaj of providing the DJ with the song and arguing that Minaj shouldn’t have even been allowed to make the unauthorized track in the first place.

Both Minaj and Flex have denied that the song came from her or her authorized representatives. Instead, Flex said he received it from one of his bloggers.

Minaj’s attorneys then filed a motion warning that Chapman’s suit “should send a shiver down the spine of those concerned with the entertainment industry.” 

They argued that artists need to be free to create something based on existing material without worrying that they could be sued for experimenting once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license. 

“Such free-flowing creativity is important to all recording artists, but particularly in hip hop,” her legal team said.

“With that category of music, a recording artist typically goes into the studio and experiments with dozens of different ‘beats’ or snippets of melodies, before hitting upon a pleasing combination.”

They also warned that ruling in Chapman’s favor “would impose a financial and administrative burden so early in the creative process that all but the most well-funded creators would be forced to abandon their visions at the outset.”

Judge’s Ruling

The latest update to the case came Wednesday when U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ultimately sided with Minaj.

In her ruling, the judge said the rapper’s experimentation with the song constitutes “fair use” not copyright infringement.

“Artists usually experiment with works before seeking licenses from rights holders and rights holders typically ask to see a proposed work before approving a license,” she explained.

“Chapman has requested samples of proposed works before approving licensing requests herself because she wanted ‘to see how [her work] will be used’ before approving the license, yet Chapman argues against the very practice she maintains. A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”

What’s Next? 

The decision is a major win for Minaj but the dispute between the two artists isn’t exactly over. 

That’s because Chapman is still trying to argue that Minaj infringed on her song rights by sending the song to Funkmaster Flex. Chapman’s lawyers asked the judge to find that the distribution constituted copyright infringement as a matter of law, but the judge ruled that that dispute would need to go to a jury. 

That could end up being a pretty tricking case for Minaj because according to Chapman’s legal team, she reached out to Flex on August 3, 2018, offering the song. Minaj allegedly followed up a week later on August 10 saying, “You got me tonight? The song is me and Nas. Send your number.” The next day, the song was played on the radio and promoted on social media.

Minaj’s team has pushed back against some of these points, as well as other claims, still maintaining that she did not send the song.

In her decision, judge Phillips noted factual disputes concerning when Flex received the work, who exactly gave it to him, whether it was a mastered version, and more. When the trial takes place, Minaj will likely be pressed on some of this conflicting information. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Complex) (MarketPlace

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