KOSCIUSKO COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) Kosciusko County Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine has been indicted on criminal charges that include bribery and assisting a criminal.
A warrant for Rovenstine’s arrest was issued Monday after a grand jury convened in Kosciusko County and returned 10 felony counts against the sheriff – five for official misconduct, three for bribery, one for intimidation and one for assisting a criminal. He was booked into the Elkhart County Jail on Monday and released after posting bond, NewsChannel 15 has learned.
At a press conference Monday in Plymouth, Marshall County Prosecutor E. Nelson Chipman Jr., who was appointed special prosecutor in the case, read the full indictment against Rovenstine and two other men – Kevin Bronson and Mark Soto. The press conference started off with a seven minute YouTube video of Bronson being interviewed by a woman about his martial arts experience, gang activity, federal convictions, conversion to Christianity and movies and books in the works about his life. Chipman never said why he chose to show the video and refused to answer any questions from reporters about the investigation.
That investigation, according to charging information filed Monday in Kosciusko Circuit Court, alleges that Rovenstine accepted some $40,000 in exchange for granting special privileges to an inmate at Kosciusko County Jail – Bronson – and a visitor to the jail – Soto.
Rovenstine also allegedly threatened a law enforcement officer for investigating “the conduct of Kevin Bronson while Kevin Bronson was incarcerated at the Kosciusko County Jail,” and permitted unrecorded calls and visits between Soto and Bronson “with the intent to hinder the punishment of Kevin Bronson,” according to the charging information.
Bronson and Soto have also been indicted.
Soto, a professor of theological studies at Grace College, faces three charges each of corrupt business influence and intimidation. He was booked into the Marshall County Jail. He has been placed on administrative leave, according to a spokeswoman for Grace College.
Bronson is a high-skilled martial artist who has black belts in 23 different martial arts and has been inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame at least twice, according to court documents obtained by NewsChannel 15. He was convicted in 2014 of cocaine possession, faces three charges of felony corrupt business influence and seven charges of felony intimidation. He has been jailed in Marshall County on a cocaine case. Chipman was appointed special prosecutor on that case as well.
Charging information alleges Bronson and Soto threatened numerous people for cash or support of a movie-making front, Young Dragon Enterprises. Court documents claim Bronson and Soto forced one person to provide legal services without payment in order to secure contracts for movies and books. Another person named in the indictment claims the two men forced him to pay more than $84,000 to Young Dragon Enterprises.
Bronson is accused of threatening at least four other men for various things like kickbacks from a company and free dental work. The charging information also alleges Bronson was connected to the Aryan Brotherhood.
As far as Bronson and Soto’s relationship, our news partners at WSBT 22 in South Bend obtained a tort claim filed by Soto against the Warsaw Police Department and the City of Warsaw in Sept. 2015 that claimed Soto met Bronson when he was his Christian mentor and later his power of attorney.
Rovenstine joined the sheriff’s department in 1990. He was elected sheriff in 1998 and served through 2006, when Rocky Goshert was elected sheriff. Rovenstine was elected sheriff again in 2014.
Below is a timeline of some of the information we’ve learned about this case so far:
According to court documents found online, Bronson was sentenced to 33 months behind bars for a driving offense. This is where Rovenstine comes into the picture. According to the indictment, Rovenstine is accused of accepting $10,000 from Bronson about the same time he was sentenced to jail time. Rovenstine allegedly provided special privileges for Bronson and his visitor, Soto, over the course of years. In the end, Rovenstine collected about $40,000 up until August 10, 2015 from Bronson.
Bronson is arrested again for dealing cocaine, possession of cocaine and criminal gang activity.
An investigation is launched focusing in on Bronson and Soto after claims of corrupt business activities and intimidation dating back to June of 2011.
Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman Jr. is appointed as special prosecutor on Bronson’s case. Chipman had him moved to the Marshall County jail. Right around the same time Rovenstine is accused of threatening another officer who investigated Bronson while he was in the Kosciusko County jail.
A grand jury indicts Bronson and Soto, but the documents are sealed along with a report and recommendation from the jury.
The grand jury meets again and indicts Rovenstine. A few days later all documents are unsealed except the jury’s report and recommendation.
Chipman said his office will continue to work to make sure the jury’s report and recommendation are unsealed and released to the public, possibly providing more information on the complicated case.
“For a grand jury to prepare and file a document entitled grand jury report and recommendation is, in my experience, highly unusual,” Chipman said. “It would be fair to assume the document contains matter of vital public concern to the citizens of Kosciusko County.”