Monday, February 29, 2016
Kosciusko County Sheriff Indicted On Bribery, Intimidation And Official Misconduct Charges
CRIMES LINKED TO ARYAN BROTHERHOOD
A Kosciusko County grand jury has returned a sweeping indictment against Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine, a Republican, on charges he accepted bribes from a criminal while housed at the Kosciusko County Jail for special treatment and attempting to intimidate another law enforcement officer to hush him up and impede and investigation. The indictment includes: three felony counts of bribery; one felony count of intimidation; one felony count of assisting a criminal; and five counts of official misconduct. The jailed inmate, Kevin Bronson and an associate of Bronson's, Mark Soto, are also facing corrupt business influence and intimidating charges in connection with the grand jury investigation.
Sheriff Rovenstine is accused of accepting $40,000 in bribe payments from Bronson in exchange for granting special treatment to Bronson as a jail inmate and to Soto as a jail visitor of Bronson. Rovenstine allegedly threatened a law enforcement officer investigating Bronson's conduct while housed as a jail inmate. Rovenstine allegedly permitted Bronson to make unrecorded phone calls and allowed visits with Soto in an effort to hinder the investigation of Bronson. Bronson faces three counts of felony corrupt business influence and seven felony counts of intimidation. Soto faces three counts of felony corrupt business influence and intimidation.
Bronson and Soto are linked to the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist organization. They are accused of using a business, Young Dragon Enterprises, LLC, to engage in racketeering activities. They are accused of threatening the life of an attorney, David Baker, unless he agreed to perform legal services for a movie or book contract on their behalf. They are also accused of threatening the life of Nate McLaurin and members of his family unless he provided information to them on a superior in the Aryan Brotherhood. The two allegedly used McLaurin to shake down Tyler Silveus for payments totaling more than $84,000. The men are also accused of threatening harm to Brian Hickerson and Corey Green if they didn't agree to perform certain acts, as well as breaking the legs of James King if he didn't cash a check for construction work completed and kick it back to Bronson. They're even accused of threatening a dentist, Dr. Steven Hollar, if he didn't agree to perform dental work on Bronson for free.
There's some pretty nasty charges laid out in the lengthy complaints against Sheriff Rovenstine, Bronson and Soto. I'm a bit surprised these matters are being tried in state court instead of being brought by the feds, considering the nature of the charges. These aren't exactly the kind of criminal charges you to typically expect to be seen brought in a county like Kosciusko. Times have changed. You can read the indictments in full by clicking here.
UPDATE: Advance Indiana has picked up some vibes about this case which may warrant a closer look. I noted earlier my surprise that this case was brought in a state court rather than by federal prosecutors. This case was brought by Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman in his capacity as a special prosecutor after Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton requested his appointment. Rovenstine has enjoyed a favorable reputation in his community from what we've been able to gather, and his friends are in disbelief of the allegations.
Some observers believe there is a turf war taking place among law enforcement, namely the sheriff's department and the Warsaw Police Department, that may have resulted in these unusual charges being made against the popular sheriff. The Warsaw Police Department chief was instrumental in getting the charges brought against Rovenstine. Rovenstine's supporters would point to the character of some of the witnesses relied upon to support these charges against the sheriff and argue that some of them had a real ax to grind against him. It might be wise to keep an open mind on this case until it is more fully developed and argued by prosecutors.
Advance Indiana has also learned that Mark Soto is a highly-respected theology professor at Grace College where students, faculty and administration are shocked by the allegations against him. According to some local news reports, Soto, a part-time minister, had served as a Christian mentor to Bronson and discussed with him a book and movie deal about his past association with the Aryan Brotherhood. Grace College's human resources director, Amanda Banks, told the media that Soto has been placed on administrative leave by the school.