WARSAW — A last minute motion, filed by the defense, 28 minutes prior to the start of the seven-day jury trial of C. Aaron Rovenstine has caused the trial to be continued. A new trial date will be set following a procedural ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court.
According to state statute, a special prosecutor is only named for a six-month period and at the end of that time frame must file a progress report with the court. A request is also made for the appointment to either continue or terminate. E. Nelson Chipman, Marshall County Prosecutor who was named the special prosecutor in the case, did not file a progress report nor a request for continuing on the case in July 2016. This matter was found early this morning by the defense counsel.
The surprises began with Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed entering the courtroom and presiding at the bench instead of Special Judge Evan Roberts. The presence of Reed was because the original motion for a special prosecutor was handled by Reed.
James Voyles, defense attorney, provided a brief history of the appointment of the special prosecutor. On July 23, 2015, Daniel Hampton, Kosciusko County Prosecutor, filed a motion for a special prosecutor in the case and requested Chipman be appointed. The following day Reed granted that order as Chipman qualified. On Jan. 22, 2016, Chipman, followed the state statute and filed the progress report and his term was granted until July 22, 2016. However no progress report has been filed and no extension of time requested in July 2016.
During the approximate 20 minutes of arguments by the defense and Matthew Sarber, deputy with the Marshall County Prosecutor’s office, who was present because Chipman is ill. Voyles stated should the judge deny the motion a writ of mandamus would be filed with the Supreme Court. This is a direct appeal to the court to review the judge’s ruling on the statute. It was noted there is no case law regarding such a matter. Reed denied the motion and the court recessed for just over an hour.
Roberts then reconvened the hearing at 10:35 a.m., and after hearing the arguments again on IC 33-39-10-2 and Reed’s motion to deny the defense motion to terminate Chipman, ruled to continue the hearing.
Roberts noted his concern with proceeding forward and opted to err on the part of caution. “This is a procedural deficit that needs an answer,” he stated. While he was reluctant to do so, he noted he wanted the case to be done correctly the first time so it would not need to be heard the second time. The defense was given 30 days to file documentation with the Supreme Court.
Following the closing of the court hearing, Michael Miner, co-counsel for Rovenstine, stated during their preparation for the case, the statutory requirements were overlooked until it was learned Chipman would not be participating. The defense doubled checked matters and learned of the failure to file the report and request.
Tami Napier, chief deputy prosecutor, stated in a press conference, the filing was a surprise to them, as they have diligently been working with the defense since the beginning, almost on a daily basis. Both Napier and Sarber stated there was a need for clarification on the issue, but the case will continue, it is just a matter of timing when it will get to be tried.