WARSAW — For the second time, defense counsel for C. Aaron Rovenstine presented an 11th hour motion to halt the trial of their client. Today’s motion was a change of plea to one of the 10 counts against him.
Special Judge Stephen Bowers allowed media and spectators to enter the courtroom 10 minutes after the announced start time of the hearing. Upon calling the court to order, Bowers stated it was his understanding there was a resolution to the case at this time and that Rovenstine wished to change his plea of not guilty.
The plea agreement — pleading guilty to Count IV, intimidation, a level 6 felony — was taken under advisement by Bowers. He set sentencing at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 23, in Kosciusko County. If the plea agreement is accepted, it will end Rovenstine serving in public office and his police career.
Going through the plea agreement, Bowers noted a term of sentencing was an ultimate misdemeanor sentencing option. This would give the judge an option to sentence Rovenstine as if the charge was a misdemeanor, while still keeping the felony conviction. Options for a class A misdemeanor include imprisonment, probation or home detention for a set period of time.
Charging documents state of Count IV, intimidation, a level 6 felony according to Indiana Codes 35-45-2-1(a) (2) and 35-45-2-1 (b) (1) (B) (i): “Rovenstine did knowingly communicate a threat to Paul Heaton, a law enforcement officer, with the intent that Paul Heaton be placed in fear of retaliation for a prior lawful act, to wit: initiating a criminal investigation of the conduct of Kevin Bronson while Kevin Bronson was incarcerated at the Kosciusko County Jail. The grand jury further charges and presents that from on or about the 20th day of March, 2015 to and including the 9th day of April, 2015 at and within Kosciusko County, Indiana.”
The sentencing for a level 6 felony could carry a six month to 2 1/2 year sentence and up to a $10,000 fine. There is a one-year advisory. If the judge opts to sentence Rovenstine under the ultimate misdemeanor sentencing noted in the plea agreement, the sentence would be one year with only court costs being assessed.
After Bowers went through the items in the plea agreement and the rights that Rovenstine would be relinquishing, he asked Rovenstine for the second time if he still wished to enter a guilty plea. Following a brief hesitation, Rovenstine answered, “Yes sir.”
The remaining nine charges, also felonies, will be dismissed if the plea agreement is accepted. Those charges included three counts of bribery, one count of assisting a criminal and five counts of official misconduct.
According to state law, Rovenstine can continue serving as an elected official — in this case, sheriff of Kosciusko County — until he is sentenced. State statute does not allow an elected official to serve in office if convicted of a felony. The county Republican party will need to call a caucus to elect a new sheriff. In the interim, former sheriff and current captain of the department, William “Rocky” Goshert, will take charge.