Bribery trial for Kosciusko Co. sheriff delayed

Aaron Rovenstine faces 10 criminal counts


WARSAW, Ind. (WANE) – The criminal trial of the acting sheriff of Kosciusko County has been continued for at least a month.

Aaron Rovenstine, elected sheriff for a second term in 2014 after serving eight years from 1998 through 2006, was set to stand trial inside a Kosciusko County courtroom beginning Tuesday.

But his defense team filed a motion to have the special prosecutor in the case removed. His attorneys claimed the special prosecutor, from Marshall County, is not fulfilling some of the duties required in the case. Rovenstine’s attorneys have 30 days to file a motion with the Indiana Supreme Court.

“They’ll file what’s called a writ of mandamus to the Indiana Supreme Court to just have them clarify that one subsection of the Indiana code that they are arguing,” special prosecutor Tami Napier said.

Napier and others working on the prosecutor’s team were surprised by the motion.

“We were diligently working with those same defense attorneys for that time period, so the time period that they are talking about that should have been filed they were involved in the case, we were doing discovery, so it did catch us off guard in that manner,” special prosecutor Matthew Sarber said.

Rovenstine was indicted nearly a year ago on ten felony counts – five for official misconduct, three for bribery, one for intimidation and one for assisting a criminal.

According to charging information filed in Kosciusko Circuit Court, Rovenstine accepted some $40,000 in exchange for granting special privileges to an inmate at Kosciusko County Jail – Kevin Bronson – and a visitor to the jail – Mark Soto. Both Bronson and Soto were indicted with Rovenstine.

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

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.

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.

Soto 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. He was convicted in 2014 of cocaine possession and faces three charges of felony corrupt business influence and seven charges of felony intimidation. He has been jailed in Marshall County from the 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, such as kickbacks from a company and free dental work. The charging information also alleges Bronson was connected to the Aryan Brotherhood.

Rovenstine has remained county sheriff as the case has moved toward trial over the last year. In November, an Elkhart Superior Court judge rejected a request by prosecutors to move Rovenstine’s trial after a test jury process determined an impartial jury could be seated.

Rovenstine’s next court date has yet to be scheduled.