Jason Brandt of Grass Valley, CA and his soapboax car that got him jail time.
Jason Brandt of Grass Valley, CA and his soapboax car that got him jail time. Photo: Jeff Gilbert

Grass Valley, CA — “I am really sorry, son, but my hands are tied. I have given you the minimum possible sentence for this offense.” With these words Nevada County Municipal Court Judge Lisa Van Slowen handed down the sentence of 7 years in jail to 23-year-old Jason Brandt of Grass Valley, CA for ‘irreconcilable bindery’, a charge with a maximum sentence of 8 years.

“I couldn’t smog my soapbox derby car, so I put myself at the mercy of the court. Big mistake,” explains Mr. Brandt by phone from Wayne Brown Correctional Facility. “I wanted to test my car out, so I took it for a run down the Alta Street hill. I figured if there were any problems with it, I would notice them while racing down that crazy-ass hill and I would have time to fix it before the race. I didn’t think one of the problems would be a stupid pig [slang for a police officer] not knowing his ass from a hole in the ground.”

The Nevada City Soapbox Derby is an annual fundraising event to keep Pioneer Park running all nice and fun all the time. The event involves participants doing lots of drinking and driving home-made cars down the street and potentially crashing, traditionally causing much hilarity. This year’s Soapbox Derby will be held on June 25th, and the Nevada City Police have promised not to ‘be dicks’ like the Grass Valley police and go handing out registration ‘fix-it’ tickets to the extremely creative, and often artistic, drivers of the soapbox vehicles in the event.

Mr. Brandt was pulled over and ticketed near the bottom of the Alta St. hill by a Grass Valley police officer for not having proper registration tags on his vehicle.

Happier times for Jason seen here in a file photo from a recent European tour. Photo: Jeff Gilbert
Happier times for Jason seen here in a file photo from a recent European tour. Photo: Jeff Gilbert

“I explained to the cop that it was not a motorized vehicle and shouldn’t require registration. He told me it’s “just a fix-it ticket” and to get it registered before my court date,” Brandt griped, “boy, was that the understatement of the year. I wasn’t able to smog the thing and I didn’t give it a VIN number, so the DMV wouldn’t give me my tags.”

Brandt’s real problems started when he found that the Grass Valley officer marked ‘Not Correctable’ on the ticket.

“Yeah, I took the ticket into the court clerk’s office hoping they could help, but the ‘not correctable’ thing made it impossible for them to do anything,” explained Brandt, “she said their hands were tied, so I asked to see a judge. The chick told me I had to come back to court the following Wednesday. The chick was a bitch, too. That next Wednesday she [the judge] said her hands were tied, and I could do one of three things. Either scrap my ‘vehicle’ through the state, get the vehicle smogged and registered, or get a ‘Non-Operative’ status on it from the DMV. I couldn’t do any of that. Who can? It’s a toy car, for god’s sake!”

He added with a jaded chuckle, “My hands were tied.”

Mr. Brandt then elaborated on his attempts to comply with the arguably impossible legal bind he found himself in. “I went down to the GVPD to get the ticket signed off. I waited in this little sanitarium of a waiting room until some cop came down. He heard my story, laughed, said something like ‘Jake is such a dick’ and, while shaking his head, signed off on the back of the ticket. I took that to the court clerk, thinking it would be enough, but noooo, I had to see a judge. I ended up seeing 3 different judges before my case was referred to the criminal court, which is why I’m talking to you guys on the phone from Wayne’s World [what Nevada County locals affectionately call the local jail] instead of at your Penn Valley offices, which were really nice last time I was there.”

At this point in the interview, the phone started beeping and telling us our time was up. The last thing I heard was Mr. Brandt’s voice screaming, “Avenge me!” and then a beep.

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