Which Would You Choose: Jail Time or Having Your Dream Car Crushed?

Nissan Skyline Big Bird

An innocent bystander shall never suffer for the crime of another.

That seems like perfectly logical common sense, right? But what if that perfectly innocent bystander is a 1995 Nissan Skyline and the punishment is a date with the crusher?

Authorities in Wisconsin seem to have no respect for greatness, or compassion for the innocent, as they have punished a man for attempting to sell gray-market vehicles here by sentencing a 1995 and a 1996 Skyline to death. And yes, there were much better ways to handle this.

First, the story:

According to the Stevens Point Journal, the Wisconsin state government caught 32-year-old Justin Beno trying to sell the Skylines, one of which played a role in the Fast and Furious movie. A DOT official pretended to be a buyer and asked if it was possible to get the cars titled, and Beno said he believed the vehicles could be titled in Florida, then retitled in Wisconsin.

The correct answer would have been, “No.”

All good Skyline restorers know the cars aren’t road legal here. Especially cars that are missing VIN tags. The government seized both cars and charged Beno with all kinds of offenses, including two felony counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, one felony count of owning a vehicle without a vehicle identification number tag and two misdemeanors tied to those missing VIN tags. Beno said he had originally purchased the cars as bare shells without the tags and that the seller mailed them later.

In his defense, Beno seems to have a real passion for these cars and attempted to follow the law, for the most part, during his $75,000 restoration project.

Nissan Skyline Big Bird, engine

The plea offer he reluctantly accepted meant he would face the misdemeanor charges while the more serious felony charges would be wiped clean, but both fully restored Skylines would be destroyed. He later offered to pay the fines and help the authorities find buyers for both machines overseas, with the proceeds going to a charity.

That was a classy offer by Beno, but the prosecutor declined. Instead, both cars will be crushed (by today, they probably have been) and sold for scrap.

If you need one more nail in that coffin, just to make you feel a little worse, the cars were just a few years away from qualifying for a federal exemption to safety standards granted to imports more than 25 years old.

Just like that, two more innocent bystanders are gone forever.

Did the state of Wisconsin make the right decision in crushing two Nissan Skylines before they illegally wound up on American roads?

-tgriffith

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  1. Elise H
    | #1

    This was obviously handled poorly by the state of Wisconsin. ESPECIALLY if the proceeds could have gone to charity. Sounds to me like they wanted to make an example out of him.

  2. | #2

    The big problem I have with any car crushing legislation or even with confiscation is the unfairness of it. Sure, there might be a certain fine for a particular offense, but then to take the car from it’s owner as well, regardless of whether that car is worth $200, $20,000, or $200,000 just isn’t fair.

    Why isn’t the same penalty applied to all that commit that offense? Why should the hoon with the V8 rust bucket out doing burnouts past the schoolyard only lose $200 value, while the restorer or modifier with the highly modified and engineered import loses something worth more than a years salary?

    Obviously I am a car enthusiast, and hate the idea of any car being destroyed. It just seems like such a waste to me. I look at the picture in this article and just about cry for the parts that would bolt straight into my engine bay, could I afford them.

  3. Randy
    | #3

    I guess I don’t feel sorry to see some contraband confiscated from a crook going to the crusher. Sends a solid message to these folks that NOBODY will benefit from their ill-gotten gains. The cynical ploy of trying to get the judge to go along with the charity thing is doubly disgusting, kind of like the dope dealer asking the judge to sell the dope and give the money to charity.

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