2 members of 'Alaskan Bush People' family sentenced to jail

AP News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2016 9:31 PM

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Two members of the family featured on the reality TV show "Alaskan Bush People" were sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail after they were accused of applying for checks from Alaska's oil wealth fund even though they weren't entitled.

Billy Brown, 63, and one of his sons, Joshua, 31, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor unsworn falsification for lying on applications for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. To qualify for the dividend, one must have been a resident of the state for the preceding calendar year.

The state is expected to dismiss charges against other members of the family who had faced charges in the case.

In November, Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg rejected plea agreements from Billy and Joshua Brown because they called for suspended jail sentences. Pallenberg said he thought there should be some jail time involved.

The terms outlined during Monday's hearing were in line with those in the rejected agreements, except they allowed for Pallenberg to impose jail time. He sentenced each man to 180 days in jail, with 150 days suspended.

The sentences also include community service, probation and fines, and neither man will be eligible for dividends in the future.

Restitution paid or expected to be paid by members of the family totals nearly $21,000, according to the Department of Law. Prosecuting attorney Lisa Kelley said the state is being made whole by getting the restitution.

Billy Brown's attorney, James McGowan, asked the judge to take Brown's health into account, saying Brown suffers from a seizure disorder, among other things. He said there was no need to incarcerate Brown, but the judge wasn't swayed.

Pallenberg said the sentencing goal of deterrence generally requires, in his view, jail time in dividend fraud cases.

In brief comments, Billy Brown apologized. Joshua Brown also made comments, though they were difficult to hear. The Brown family appeared telephonically.