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Minnesota man sentenced to probation for damaging Porsche, Onalaska auto repair shop
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Minnesota man sentenced to probation for damaging Porsche, Onalaska auto repair shop

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Benjamin Gjere mug

Gjere

A Minnesota man will spend two years on probation after pleading no contest to charges stemming from an incident in which he broke his vehicle out of an impound lot in Onalaska.

Benjamin K. Gjere, 20, Rochester, pleaded no contest to operating a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent as a party to a crime, criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct and misdemeanor bail jumping as part of a plea agreement between his attorney Joseph Geraldson and prosecutors.

Charges from other incidents involving Gjere — all of which were filed in October and November of 2019 — including possession of cocaine, battery and possession of drug paraphernalia, were dismissed and read in.

Prosecutor Garrett Johnson said Gjere’s lack of criminal history before the last year and previous positive choices, such as service in the Minnesota National Guard, were factors when recommending the agreement to Judge Gloria Doyle.

“He was making all the right choices in his life … These offenses appeared to happen quickly and continued to snowball as the defendant continued to engage in dangerous, damaging and disruptive conduct,” Johnson said. “The state feels he can return to a life of better choices.”

Gjere and an accomplice went to Del’s Auto Shop in Onalaska in November after his 2019 Nissan Altima was impounded there. They entered the lot when Del’s was closed, and then at about 10:30 p.m. Nov. 10, surveillance video shows a 2012 Porsche, which had been left unlocked with keys inside, accelerating in the impound lot and through the fence on the north end of the lot.

It then crashed through the fence of a house on the 100 block of Third Avenue North, and the driver drove it south on Third Avenue before abandoning it, still running, on Main Street in Onalaska.

After the Porsche cleared the way, Gjere’s Altima was driven out of the holes in the fence made by the Porsche.

Gjere told police it was his accomplice’s idea to break the fence, and his accomplice drove the Porsche while he drove the Altima, according to the criminal complaint.

No one else has been charged.

Doyle placed him Gjere probation for 24 months, ordered him to complete 50 hours of community service and required him to pay restitution to Del’s and West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. for damage to the shop, the fence and the Porsche.

Doyle said she was placing him on probation not because he doesn’t deserve confinement, but because she believes he can be successfully managed in the community.

“I do think you have the right character to get back on the path. I don’t think I need to be worried about protecting the public. You’re more a danger to yourself than you are a danger to others,” Doyle said.

She said it was important that the victims in the crime are made whole and recommended Gjere immediately start looking for a job.

While the amount of restitution has not yet been finalized, it could end up at more than $7,000, according to an early tally of the damages to two fences and the other vehicle.

If Gjere is successful on probation and repays the victims, he would be eligible to have the felony conviction expunged from his record. If he doesn’t, he could be sentenced to more than seven years in prison.


Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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