North Bay fire victims face jail time for refusing to abandon mother's home in Fountaingrove

FOUNTAINGROVE, Calif. (KGO) -- How far would you push for a matter of principle? Would you risk jail time for it?

Mark and Evan Neumann, fire victims and brothers who now feel victimized by the legal system, after trying to visit their mother's burned home in Fountaingrove, days after the North Bay fires.

Thursday morning, Mark, pleaded guilty in Sonoma County Court to a misdemeanor charge of refusing to leave an evacuated disaster zone. Judge Julie Conger placed Neumannnn on probation for three years, and ordered him to serve 180-hours of community service.

VIDEO: North Bay officials brace for storm in fire zone
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The strongest storm of the season is here and it's especially worrisome for people in the North Bay. Officials have been busy bracing for flooding and mudslides in the burn areas that were devastated by last year's wildfires.

"I'm innocent," said Mark, "But, I have two kids and need to take care of them."

His brother, Evan (R), has opted to risk six months in jail by pushing the case to a jury trial, next week. "It's an unfair and illegal charge," said Evan. "There were many homeowners in the area."

"We thought the area was open," said Mark. While they knew there were restrictions, "We got the impression from police that they had more important problems."

Evan has chosen to represent himself. He says he is innocent because before being arrested, sent to jail, and released after posting $1000 bail, no peace officer or National Guardsman ever asked him or his brother to leave. "There is a principle, here," he said. "I am fighting this case for every fire victim."

"This is being blown out of proportion," said mother Debbie Neumann, who owns the burned home. She cannot fathom why the Sonoma County District Attorney's office is pressing charges. "They need to concentrate on things that matter."

The Sonoma County District Attorney's office has yet to return our calls.

Click here for more stories about the North Bay wildfires.

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