WARSAW — A motion by the state to close a portion of the testimony of a witness — later identified as Kevin Bronson — was denied by Special Judge Stephen Bowers this morning before the trial of Mark Soto began for the third day. The majority of the morning was hearing testimony from Bronson.
The motion, originally taken under advisement earlier in the trial, sought to close the courtroom when Bronson testified about certain matters pertaining to the Aryan Brotherhood that could expose him to threats and personal harm. The judge had requested specific evidence that threat existed. Warsaw Police Lt. Paul Heaton was called to testify what he had learned.
Heaton testified he had spoken to members of the Aryan Brotherhood who stated its members were looking forward and awaiting the time for Bronson to return to prison to take matters into their own hands. It was learned Bronson was already on the organization’s radar for previous incidents.
“It’s a sensitive issue,” stated Bowers, noting the public’s right to access to the proceedings and the First Amendment rights and the interest of the news media due to the high level of public interest. “On the other hand, it’s the inherent continual orderly process and safety of all participants and individuals.” The judge noted previous testimony heard about the organization’s actions.
“I deny the motion,” Bowers stated, “It is clear Kevin Bronson has been used extensively with gang actions with witnesses already … it’s clear Kevin Bronson has been involved in cooperation with the system with other courts … I’m inclined to believe for Kevin Bronson ‘the train has left the station a long time ago.’”
The prosecution noted Bronson would likely be testifying most of the day and possibly into Monday.
Bronson was led into the courtroom by two officers from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department who remained seated on either side of him throughout the morning. Bronson, who was shackled at his ankles and had his wrists shackled by a belly band, advised the court he would need frequent restroom breaks due to an ice pick stab wound that left only one-third of his bladder.
Bronson’s testimony focused on his childhood, including his relationship with his father. He testified about his father’s rise to fortune, and how his father would give rewards for excellence and punishment for failure. “To receive his love and affection you had to succeed,” Bronson testified.
The several name changes Bronson had were also brought out – born Kevin Bailin, and then having his named changed to Bronson by his father to wipe out any failures and the cost was also noted. Bronson also made it clear several times he was offered witness protection, but he never took it. However the date of birth noted by the prosecution and verified by Bronson varies in month and year from what is on court documents.
Bronson testified extensively about the origination of the Aryan Brotherhood, his introduction to the organization and his first week in federal prison with the organization. Two situations were detailed, both of which had been relayed in previous testimony from Nate McLaurin. Bronson also testified about the various symbols in the organization’s patch or tattoo, noting he was one of four generals in the organization. He testified in his first five days at the federal prison he saw people killed, raped to death, a stabbing and 21 fights. Eleven months later he was faced with murdering an individual.
At one point during his testimony, Bronson stated “since the press is here…” but was cut off by Bowers admonishing him to only answer the questions he was asked.
Bronson’s testimony also included the various places he owned homes and lived, how he came to Warsaw, his meeting Dr. Mark Soto and their relationship — a counselor, mentor, to a surrogate father. He also spoke of his martial arts accomplishments, the first talk of the book/movie deal, and when he met with David Baker and Nate McLaurin.
Bronson elaborately testified about all topics and was very detailed about dates and information. He testified four or five trips were made to California with Baker (not the three Baker testified) and McLaurin, who had drug and gang involvement earlier in his life, was enthusiastic about the movie and wanted it to sing a song of redemption and not be just another Christian movie.
It was also testified by Bronson that McLaurin immediately took control of everything and was pushing to have things completed. This testimony differed from what McLaurin had testified earlier in the week.
Bronson was additionally asked if Soto was ever intimidated by him, and how his father and Soto met. Bronson testified Soto was not intimidated by him and was the only person who has ever seen him when he is fully emerged in rage. “I don’t think Dr. Soto was afraid of me,” and added Soto took no threat from Bronson seriously, but laughed.
Testimony was also heard about his “condo” at the Kosciusko County Jail and the two occasions he interceded with the Aryan Brotherhood to protect a judge, prosecutor and bail bondsmen in Elkhart County and two officers in Kosciusko County.
Prior to the start of Bronson’s testimony, Rod Mayer, local orthopedic chief executive officer, testified how he came to know Soto and Bronson and his knowledge of the book/movie deal.