WARSAW — The statement, “these are mere accusations and all individuals are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” was stressed several times by Marshall County Prosecutor E. Nelson Chipman Jr., special prosecutor, during his press conference yesterday. The press conference officially announced the grand jury indictment charges against Kosciusko County Sheriff C. Aaron Rovenstine, Mark H. Soto and Kevin L. Bronson.
Rovenstine was indicted on three counts of bribery, one count each of intimidation and assisting a criminal and five counts of official misconduct. He was back in uniform and back to work Monday afternoon.
Soto was indicted on three counts of corrupt business influence and three counts of intimidation. He has been placed on paid administrative leave from his position at Grace College.
Bronson was indicted on three counts of corrupt business influence and seven counts of intimidation.
The indictments are all class C and D felonies if the alleged acts occurred before June 30, 2014, and level 5 or 6 felonies if occurred after that date.
The statement of the indictments being accusations and individuals being innocent until proven guilty is being taken to heart by many.
“The county is in good hands with Aaron as sheriff,” said Brad Jackson, county commissioner. “In various ways over 20 years he has served in law enforcement. I don’t think he would do that. I know him very well. There are certain people you just know them and he is one of them.”
Many people have questioned if Rovenstine would be removed from office. “The commissioners do not have the authority to do anything at this time,” Jackson stated, explaining the commissioners cannot go into any elected official’s office and state how things are done. “It’s balance in the government. He is an elected official. to my understanding and what we’ve been told, we have no authority to step in.”
Several other individuals, who did not wish to be named, echoed Jackson’s comment. “Aaron is still the sheriff,” they stated, noting he has not had the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations. Many feel any action at this point would be saying Rovenstine is guilty without his day in court.
Rovenstine, who turned himself in to the Indiana State Police, was taken to the Elkhart County Detention Facility and booked on the indictments at 11:38 a.m. He posted bond shortly afterwards and was released at 12:11 p.m. Appearances have been filed by his attorneys James H. Voyles and Jennifer M. Lukemeyer with Voyles Zahn Paul Hogan et al, Indianapolis. An initial hearing, at this time, is set for 8:30 a.m. March 17, in Kosciusko Circuit Court.
He can choose to waive the initial hearing.
Mark H. Soto was arrested by police at 10:21 a.m. Monday, Feb. 29, at 999 College Ave., Winona Lake, by Warsaw Police. He was booked in the county jail at 10:34 a.m. and bonded out a short time later. He was given the same date and time for an initial hearing as Rovenstine. As of this morning, no attorney appearance has been filed.
Bronson remains in the Marshall County Jail where he was transferred from Kosciusko County Jail August, 2015. He will be returned to Kosciusko County for his court hearing Tuesday, March 8. There is no record that Bronson has been served the indictments.
Bronson is scheduled to be in Kosciusko Circuit Court at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 8, for a hearing on plea acceptance and sentencing on charges of dealing in cocaine, more than once gram, a level 4 felony; possession of cocaine, a level 6 felony; and criminal gang activity, a level 6 felony. His plea agreement submitted stated he would plead guilty to a lesser included offense of count one, as a level 5 felony. The other charges would be dismissed.
If an individual is convicted of a class C felony, the sentence range is 2-8 years. A class D felony is one-half to 3 years. A level 5 felony conviction has a range of 1-6 years, and a level 6 felony conviction carries a range of one-half year to 2 1/2 years. Sentences are spendable with individuals placed on probation and can be served concurrent or consecutive.