WARSAW — Jury selection will begin at approximately 8:30 a.m. Monday, April 3, in the trial of C. Aaron Rovenstine. Rovenstine is charged with three counts of bribery, intimidation, assisting a criminal and five counts of official misconduct. Jury selection is expected to last three days with the actual trial beginning Thursday, April 6.
A large number of jurors are anticipated to be called to reach a 12-member jury and one or two alternates. An order issued by Special Judge Evan S. Roberts Feb. 10, states the jury trial was reset beginning April 3-7 continuing on April 10-12 and April 17-21 with “jury selection to take place in Kosciusko County. In the event a jury cannot be selected, the location of the trial will be moved but will commence on or about April 6.” It was noted in open court Feb. 10, there was a concern about the availability of individuals during spring break in Elkhart, Kosciusko and Marshall counties.
There have been several recent twists in this case: A delay in the trial, a change of special prosecutors and the latest, a change in special judges.
The trial was initially delayed Feb. 7 after a motion to have special prosecutor E. Nelson Chipman Jr. disqualified as special prosecutor, due to allegedly failing to file appropriate documentation under rules of procedure. After Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Rex Reed denied the motion, Roberts granted a continuance of the trial. An emergency telephone conference was held later that day after the documentations in question were found and had been filed. The new trial dates were then set. However, the prosecution of the case would be handled by Chipman’s staff in the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office, primarily Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tami Napier and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Sarber. The change was due to Chipman being ill.
The final twist came last week when Roberts, who is Elkhart Superior Court 1 Judge and appointed as special judge in the cases against Rovenstine relinquished his appointment.
Roberts filed the notification with the court Wednesday, March 22. In the notice Roberts stated “I am unable to fulfill my duties as special judge at this time due to illness.” Documents note he has been advised the parties have reached an agreement as to the appointment of a successor special judge in the matter. But no name was listed.
Roberts was appointed by the Terry Shewmaker, chief judge of the Administrative Judicial District 5, March 11, 2016, after all Kosciusko County judges filed conflict of interest notices.
Elkhart Superior Court 2 Judge Stephen R. Bowers has now been selected to take over as the special judge in the case.
Documentation in the case shows Friday, March 24, the attorneys of record filed an agreed entry as to the appointment of Bowers as the successor to Special Judge Evan S. Roberts.
Bowers, an Elkhart attorney and Elkhart city councilman, was elected to the bench in 2006. He was re-elected in 2012.