After writing up my previous Alaskan Bush People article, I was struck by something that hadn’t previously occurred to me for whatever reason. Specifically, the lack of discussion of the Browns’ fines in addition to the 30-day jail sentence. The show built an entire season around Billy and “Bam” Brown going to jail. Why wasn’t there a peep about all the money the family had to pay?
Anyone who read the news about the case was aware of the required monetary compensation.
The Alaska Dispatch-News had this to say about the fines.
“In return for their guilty pleas, Billy Brown must return $7,956 in improperly obtained dividends and pay a $10,000 fine. Joshua Brown must pay back $1,174 in dividends and pay a $2,000 fine. They both must complete 40 hours of community service.
“They can never apply for the dividend again, and by April 15, they must report to jail, said Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg.”
Much was made on Alaskan Bush People about the fact that two of the Browns were headed to jail (or rather, to house arrest). There was a very stirring clip dedicated to explaining why the Browns were going to prison.
I want you to watch this clip and see if you hear any mention of money or fines.
Well, did you hear anything about those fines? I certainly didn’t. And it’s an extremely curious omission on the part of Alaskan Bush People producers. After all, it’s not like the Browns were under a gag order and couldn’t share this information. The fact that the Browns were forced to pay back the money and additional fines is public knowledge.
So why did their reality TV show refuse to make any mention of the money?
Ongoing Legal Issues
It could be that while Season 5 of Alaskan Bush People was filming, the producers and cast had no idea how things would shake out. That means they had no idea what the fine would be or if they’d have to pay one.
The only problem with this theory is that it’s directly contradicted by the video you just watched. Both the narrator and Billy Brown gave details similar to various news articles. The only omission? What the Browns had to pay Alaska.
Potential Legal Problem
It could be that the Discovery Channel didn’t want to entangle itself in any legal issues by getting too specific. Alaskan Bush People did attempt some neutrality. For instance, acknowledging what the Browns claim to be true rather than claiming their remarks are objectively true.
The show danced on a fine line by implying that the state falsely prosecuted the Browns, threatening the family solely because of “their way of life.” Perhaps going into detail would have caused complications the network and producers didn’t want.
Still, it seems a bit much to go off on the state of Alaska on behalf of people who pled guilty from stealing from Alaskans. Omitting talk of restitution and court fees seems a bizarre afterthought.
Protecting The Show’s Integrity
For the record, I’m not talking about the Browns’ boat. As you saw with the clip, the show was able to spin the jail sentence as punishment for the “Wolf Pack” not being normal, everyday citizens. But how do you spin the fact that you knowingly stole thousands of dollars for years while lying to Alaska about being in the state?
Again, Alaskans are allowed to leave the state and still receive a portion of the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). You simply can’t be outside of the state for longer than six months in any given year that you apply. Had the Browns spent part of the year in Alaska and part of the year somewhere else, there wouldn’t be a legal issue.
But they didn’t do this during any of the years in question. That’s why, more so than jail time, the family was required to pay back what they took from the state. The details really make it hard to put the Browns in a good light. It also becomes hard to paint state prosecutors as bad guys for simply doing their jobs.
Discussing the fines and money they had to pay back in addition to jail time might make the Browns look that much worse. After all, Americans aren’t usually sympathetic to celebrities who steal and get a slap on the wrist.
Mentioning the fines wouldn’t just interfere with the Browns’ “Christian salt-of-the-earth” image. Bringing up the money owed to Alaska would raise a rather disturbing question: Exactly how do “bush people” pay out tens of thousands of dollars they allegedly don’t have?
We already know that fans are reportedly constantly trying to send the Browns money. They watch the show and see a family struggling and down on their luck. It wouldn’t be surprising if loyal fans worked together to raise money to cover the fines and court fees!
However, it’s likely that wouldn’t be necessary. If the Browns are being compensated for Alaskan Bush People (and that’s usually the case as the Business Insider can attest), then they’d likely have more than enough to pay those fees.
They certainly had enough to hightail it to Hawaii at the height of the notoriously expensive tourist season. Could a bush family that’s struggling to scrounge together money for fines afford such a trip? Probably not.
Why do you think Alaskan Bush People and the Browns refused to mention the fines but when on and on about “jail time”? Share your theories below!
[Featured Image by the Discovery Channel]