North Bay fire victims take deal after refusing to abandon mother's home

FOUNTAINGROVE, Calif. (KGO) -- For brothers Evan and Mark Neumann, the legal case that made them heroes to some, and villains to others, ended Thursday morning.

RELATED: North Bay fire victims face jail time for refusing to abandon mother's home

"I have done the best thing for my family," said Evan.

"It's not a victory, but an exoneration, which I will take," said Mark.

Their troubles began October 17, when they inspected their mother's burned home after the firestorm in Fountaingrove, despite it being in a restricted evacuation area. Santa Rosa police arrested the brothers. Then, the Sonoma County District Attorney charged them with not obeying orders to leave, a misdemeanor that could have led to six months in jail.

The brothers insist they never heard such warnings.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Anne Masterson said today her evidence proved otherwise.

"They received at least three warnings to stay out of the neighborhood, including one on the telephone in advance of their visit."

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.

Last week, Evan vowed to take the case to a jury. Mark pleaded guilty because he could not risk the jail time. He received three years and 180 hours of community service.

Today, in court, it all changed. The prosecution reduced Mark's sentence to not guilty after 40 hours community service, which he has already served. After a lot of hard thought, Evan took essentially the same deal.

Call it a compromise.

"We wanted them to take responsibility for the inconvenience and chaos they could have caused by going into an evacuation zone, and using public resources. We warned them not to enter. We wanted them to give back to the community," said Masterson.

"I would do it again," said Evan.

"I think it was a number of people doing their job, but when they did their job they did not think about whether it was right or wrong," said Mark. "Then, it snowballed and what was wrong became right."

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