|Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine (left), Mark Soto (center) and Kevin Bronson (right)|
A theology professor at Grace College accused of engaging in corrupt business practices and intimidation, along with an inmate with a troubled past jailed in the Kosciusko County Jail, in a bribery case brought against Kosciusko County Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine, had filed a tort claim notice of intent to sue the Warsaw Police Department according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. That tort claim arose from a legal dispute Professor Mark Soto had with other members of the Covenant Church of Christ where he was a member.
According to the tort claim notice filed by Soto last September, he had developed a Christian mentor relationship with convicted felon and martial arts expert, Kevin Bronson. At some point along the way, Soto had assumed the role of power of attorney with responsibility for Bronson's personal finances. Bronson's sordid criminal past and association with the Aryan Brotherhood, followed by his Christian conversion, became the inspiration for a book and movie deal about his life. Well-to-do members of the community and, in particular, members of the Christ Covenant Church were induced by Soto to invest in the book and movie deal.
According to the indictment, Soto and Bronson are accused of making threats to several individuals, including several senior members of the church, for financial assistance for the project. The two allegedly pressured the church's senior pastor, Nate McLaurin, to shake down a local businessman, Tyler Silveus, for an $84,000 payment. Soto's tort claim notice characterized the events as mere differences among church members over the handling of the project's financing. The indictment accuses the two men of engaging in a pattern of violence "that led husbands to move their families in the middle of the night out of fear for their safety."
The Warsaw Police Department launched an investigation after several church members complained about the actions of Soto and Bronson. Warsaw Police attempted to interview Soto, but he declined on advice of his counsel. Warsaw Police responded by getting a warrant to search Soto's home and office at Grace College where they seized computers belonging to Soto. That prompted Soto to file his tort claim against Warsaw Police, which he accused of harming his reputation and making it impossible for him to complete his taxes. He sought $4 million in damages.
According to the Journal-Gazette, Kosciusko Co. Prosecutor Dan Hampton recused himself from the case and sought the appointment of a special prosecutor, which led to the case being turned over to Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman, who conducted the grand jury that returned indictments against both men and Sheriff Rovenstine made public on Monday. The indictment accuses Sheriff Rovenstine of accepting $40,000 in bribes from Soto and Bronson in consideration for special treatment as an inmate at the county jail.
The Journal-Gazette says Sheriff Rovenstine was no stranger to Bronson. "In a 2009 article in the Warsaw Times-Union, then chief-deputy Rovenstine praised Bronson, who was speaking to the newspaper about the movie plans and his martial arts excellence," the Journal-Gazette report said. “I met him in 1996, and I’ve spent some time with him off and on,” Rovenstine said to the Times-Union reporter. “I’ve gotten to know him as a unique individual. He’s strong-willed, but not as bull-headed and as stubborn as he was when I first met him.”