A grand jury has indicted Kosciusko County Sheriff C. Aaron Rovenstine on 10 charges, including bribery and official misconduct, alleging he took $40,000 to allow special privileges for a jail inmate.
Rovenstine, 56, is charged with three counts of bribery, one count of intimidation, one count of assisting a criminal and five counts of official misconduct, according to court documents unsealed Monday.
Authorities say a county jail inmate, 56-year-old Kevin L. Bronson, and an associate, 61-year-old Mark H. Soto, bribed Rovenstine in exchange for favors such as unrecorded, unsupervised phone calls and visits.
Rovenstine also allegedly threatened another police officer who was investigating Bronson. The alleged misconduct, some of which was meant to protect Bronson from punishment, started as early as March 2011 and continued into August 2015, according to the documents.
“They are significant counts because the allegations are all related to offenses committed in the course of his duties as a public servant,” said special Prosecutor E. Nelson Chipman, of Marshall County, at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Rovenstine was arrested and booked into the Elkhart County Jail. He was released on $10,000 bond early Monday afternoon, according to jail records.
Soto, a professor at Grace College in Winona Lake, and Bronson also are charged with multiple counts of corrupt business influence and intimidation, alleging they engaged in a pattern of racketeering to get money and favors for Bronson and for a business called Young Dragon Enterprises.
In one case, Bronson and Soto allegedly threatened to have a lawyer beaten or killed to get the lawyer to provide legal services aimed at getting Bronson a movie or book contract.
Bronson, who was successful in martial arts but had a history of crime and gang activity, was seeking to have a movie or books produced about his life.
The investigation that led to the indictments began in December 2014, when Warsaw police arrested Bronson on drug and gang charges, said Chipman, who was appointed as special prosecutor in the case last year.
Chipman asked Indiana State Police to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bronson’s arrest, and he convened a grand jury in Kosciusko County in October. The grand jury returned the indictment for Bronson and Soto on Dec. 16 and for Rovenstine on Feb. 26.
Bronson has been held in the Kosciusko County Jail since his arrest on the cocaine charges. He pleaded guilty in that case Feb. 22 and is scheduled to be sentenced March 8.
Indiana prison records show Bronson was convicted of cocaine and theft charges in Elkhart County in 2002 and of a cocaine charge again in Elkhart County in 2005.
Soto also was arrested and booked into the Kosciusko County Jail on $10,000 bond. It was unclear whether he remained in jail Monday.
At the news conference, Chipman also said the grand jury prepared a report on its investigation, but a judge had denied a request to unseal that document. Chipman said he intended to again seek the release of the report, saying he found it highly unusual that the grand jury produced such a document.
“It would be fair to say the document contains matters of vital public concern,” he said.