WARSAW — Dr. Mark H. Soto, 63, Warsaw, was looking at 10 years at the Indiana Department of Corrections when sentenced today, Thursday, Sept. 28. But in the end, he will serve three years on home detention and three years of probation after Special Judge Stephen Bowers ordered sentences on two counts to be served concurrently and the third charge to be served consecutively.
However, the jury verdict, sentencing and denial of a motion to correct error will be appealed by Soto within the next 30 days.
He was found guilty by a jury on Aug. 8 on two counts of corrupt business influence, class C/level 5 felonies; and one count of intimidation, a class D felony. He was found not guilty on one charge of corrupt business influence and two counts of intimidation. The sentencing took place in Kosciusko County Circuit Court.
Initially Bowers sentenced Soto to four years on each count of corrupt business influence. He then ordered those sentences to be served concurrently. On the intimidation charge, he ordered a consecutive two-year sentence to the DOC. He then ruled that the first three years of the concurrent sentences be served on home detention, through the Kosciusko County Community Corrections program, with one year suspended to be served on probation. This was followed by a suspension of the two-year sentence for intimidation, to be served on probation.
He also ordered Soto to pay restitution to Christian McCray in the amount of $9,119.50; Derek Hobbs, $5,000; Tyler Silveus, $143,578.32; and Cory Green, $3,150. Soto will work with the Elkhart County Victims Office Reconciliation program on the restitution.
Scott Lennox, counsel for Soto, presented numerous mitigating circumstances — honorable discharge from the military, education, law abiding citizen … “He followed his heart and thought it was the right thing to do … he gave a man an opportunity to find redemption … if he’s guilty of anything it is who he associated with …”
Soto read a prepared statement to the court. “I allowed the use of my good name,” he said and regretted not knowing all that was revealed during the trial. He also admitted he should have listened to the men who sought to warn him about Kevin Bronson. He asked for an opportunity to rebuild his credibility with his family, church friends.
James McLaurin provided a victim statement to the court. He mentioned others appealing to Soto to walk away from Bronson, Soto’s tort claim and his refusal of a plea agreement. “I don’t feel things were presented accurately in the trial,” he said. He spoke of Soto being like a reputable surgeon giving a patient a lethal disease while being under anesthetic. “Many good people were damaged …” McLaurin stated. “I want him to understand the severity of his decision. His role in this, he is just as, if not, as dangerous as Kevin.”
Tami Napier, deputy prosecuting attorney, reiterated the state’s position throughout the entire process – Soto could have stopped at any time, being a willing participant, providing financial support to Bronson, a full and participating member of Young Dragon Enterprises and he expected a big pay off. “He policed good people of $200,000,” she said. She also noted his remorse “rings hollow” as even today Soto is blaming Bronson, not himself.
While the defense objected to the state’s request for restitution, the state argued the dollar amounts noted were all admitted as evidence during the trial, which the judge accepted.
Bowers was detailed in his reasons for the sentence he issued. He noted the “significant aggravating circumstances” and the staggering sums of money. He stated he felt Soto was not remorse in his actions and noted a statement in the pre-sentence investigation report where the harm done to others was secondary to Soto.
Bowers stated Bronson’s story would be a grand story and a moving story but Soto was the catalyst in the situation, a crime that could not have happened without him (Soto).
Bowers didn’t forget about the mitigating circumstances. “There’s no way to judge what’s in your heart. I’ll leave that to God,” Bowers said. However, he noted he suspected there was a possibility and likely some element of greed in the whole matter.
Bowers referred to a portion of Bronson’s testimony where he noted he could get people to believe whatever he wanted them to believe. “You had an advantage, you dealt with him for a lengthy period of time … knew he (Bonson) was capable of being a con man … incomprehensible for you not to recognize, you’re too smart for that … should have abandoned him long before. You were a full and willing participant.”
Prior to the sentencing arguments to Lennox’s motion to correct error and for judgement on the evidence, were heard. Matthew Sarber, assistant deputy prosecutor, argued there was no case law or statute regarding the wording of the charges, and the defense was asking to add standards for convictions. He stated the defense is asking the court to go into the jury room, with jurors to see how they came to the verdict. “It is a collateral attack on the judgment.”