Bags of evidence seized in search of Kosciusko County Sheriff’s office

KOSCIUSKO COUNTY, Ind. (WSBT) – Indiana State Police detectives served search warrants on Wednesday in connection with in investigation into Kosciusko County Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine and two local men. WSBT 22 saw several detectives who walked out with clear plastic bags with electronics; one bag was marked “Rovenstine.”

photo of Aaron Rovenstine
Mugshot of Aaron Rovenstine courtesy Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department

The search warrants came on the heels of a months-long investigation by the Indiana State Police. The special prosecutor, Nelson Chipman, asked that the agency conduct their own individual investigation last summer.

On Monday, Judge Michael Reed unsealed grand jury indictments for Rovenstine, along with inmate Kevin Bronson and long-time Grace College Professor Dr. Mark Soto. Police said Rovenstine agreed to accept $30,000 in bribes from Bronson.

In exchange, Bronson was allegedly allowed to have unrecorded phone conversations and visits, some of which with Soto.

The grand jury prepared a “report and recommendation” that they intended to release to their fellow community members, according to Chipman. However, Hon. Michael Reed chose not to release the report.

Chipman has gone on the record several times discussing that the contents of the report are of great “public concern.” He plans to file a motion for the report’s release.

‘I ROSE TO NATIONAL LEADERSHIP IN THAT GANG’

Kevin Bronson, 56, was indicted on “corrupt business influence” and intimidation charges. Bronson is a long-time member of the Kosciusko County community.

He spoke openly about his past with crime, including being a “top 7 member” of the Aryan Brotherhood, in a YouTube video. He told the Times-Union in Warsaw that he had changed his ways.

The Times-Union quoted the sheriff who talked about his involvement with Bronson, back in 2009.

“I met him in 1996, and I’ve spent some time with him off and on. I’ve gotten to know him as a unique individual,” said then-Chief Deputy Aaron Rovenstine. “He’s strong-willed, but not as bull-headed and as stubborn as he was when I first met him.”

But before the indictment that was unsealed on Monday, Bronson was already in legal trouble.

In December 2014, a witness told police Bronson forced her husband to drive him to South Bend to purchase illegal drugs. When police caught up with them, officers found cocaine, according to documents.

Bronson pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing set for March 8th.

WSBT asked Soto’s attorney if Bronson manipulated Soto.

“Dr. Soto first met Mr. Bronson at a church where Dr. Soto was preaching in about 1998,” said Soto’s attorney David Kolbe. “Mr. Bronson responded to the spiritual message that day. The evidence regarding Mr. Bronson will be abundantly clear in public proceedings. What people should do right now is let our rule of law unfold here, let all the evidence be exposed to the light of day, and form no judgments until these matters are concluded.”

CHURCH INVOLVEMENT

Bronson allegedly threatened two pastors at Warsaw’s Christ’s Covenant Church , according to documents. Soto was also indicted on one of those intimidation counts.

Bronson was not a member, according to the pastor, but attended fellowship services.

WSBT 22 reached out to both pastors involved, who said they did not want to jeopardize the investigation.

However, one said the group of pastors asked Bronson “not to come back” after learning of what “he was doing.”

When we asked what that was — the pastor chose not to explain, but said they plan to make a statement to their congregation on Sunday.

Copyright © 2016, WSBT-TV

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