Fans and viewers of “Alaskan Bush People” are confused. (The term “fans and viewers” applies because the show has many viewers but not as many who consider themselves fans of the Brown family.) When the new episode aired Wednesday, we were still under the impression that Billy Brown, father and leader of the “wolf pack,” was dying. In the previous episode, it was the mother, Ami Brown, whose health and future were in jeopardy. In both situations, the family seemed to pronounce them dead. But it was testimony in an Alaskan court case that truly has flabbergasted everyone.
According to a report on People.com, Billy Brown and son Joshua (Bam) Brown submitted a plea deal on charges that they had defrauded the state of Alaska on oil revenue payments (PFD). The deal was rejected by a state judge who felt that they should serve some time. If the deal had been accepted, the rest of the family would have only received small fines for their allegedly false applications. In all the reports, the family’s legal situation seems a bit murky, as though two different judges have acted independently of each other, with one having actually dismissed the case against Billy and Ami at some point, but not their children who were minors at the time. Matt was not cited in the case which returns to court for judgement on Dec. 3.
What is significant here, for those unfamiliar with PFD payments, is that this program has stringent residency requirements; Bam and Billy admitted in their plea paperwork that they had stolen from Alaska residents because they did not live in Alaska between Oct. 2009 and Aug. 2012. Although their guilty plea was withdrawn after the plea bargain was rejected, they cannot take back what they admitted to fans, viewers and the court: they did not live in the Alaska bush for several years before the show. They did not even live in Alaska!
Fox News has questioned whether the Discovery network will even allow the show to continue after the family’s admission of taking $20,938 under false pretenses. But, most of the deception of viewers regarding the Brown’s “discovery” could possibly rest on the network that presented them that way. Billy and family had been travelling around promoting his book about living in the bush and trying to pitch a movie based on their adventures. Instead of filming a reenactment where the family reflected on this unique way of life that they used to live, the network chose to present the Browns as something akin to tribal people being raised by wolves. So, it is natural to wonder about that opening segment to the show:
“Deep in the Alaskan wilderness lives a newly discovered family who was born and raised wild….”