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No jail time for Kosciusko County Sheriff sentenced for intimidation

WARSAW, Ind. -

Kosciusko County Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine was sentenced Tuesday after taking a plea deal in April.

It's a day many have been anticipating for nearly two years: the day against the now former Sheriff closed. 

Rovenstine was sentenced to one year of probation, 250 hours of community service for felony intimidation, and has to attend victim/offender reconciliation classes in Elkhart County.

His nine other felony charges were dismissed.

Although now a convicted felon, Special Judge Stephen Bowers decided against placing Rovenstine behind bars, which would have been served at the Kosciusko County Jail, saying it would be a bad idea.

Rovenstine's defense attorneys refused to discussed what occurred inside the Kosciusko County Justice Building Tuesday morning. 

Anticipation filled the completely full courtroom, as the prosecution and defense went back and forth to decide what sentence he would face.

Rovenstine was granted an opportunity to speak.

Through his tears, he apologized and said, "I wish that I could live my life by the Golden Rule. And in this regard, I have failed."

After nearly two hours, and testimony from Warsaw Police Detective Paul Heston and former Kosciusko County Sheriff's Department Detective John Ayres, Judge Bowers announced his decision.

The special prosecution team, led by Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman, were satisfied with the decision.

"This is a case of public corruption, and the good people of Kosciusko County deserve to know what happened," he says. "We are very satisfied with the sentence. You could tell he really struggled with this sentence."

A lot of new information was revealed in court, regarding the events of the summer of 2015 that led to these ten different charges.

It all began with a simple investigation: an investigation led by the Warsaw Police Department on the actions of a Kosciusko County inmate, Kevin Bronson.

That's when it got complicated.

"It's important to note the investigation was about Kevin Bronson and his dealings with Kosciusko County residents. It was not about  Aaron Rovenstine or the Kosciusko  County Sheriffs Department," explains Chipman.

Heaton was searching for information about Bronson, and asked Rovenstine to provide the necessary information: phone call recordings and visitor logs. 

But on August 14, 2015, he found himself locked out of the jail.

Then, a phone call. 

"A threat to back off the investigation or 'World War III would break out and it would be ugly,'  'because I'm the sheriff, and 'I have investigators too," recounts Chipman. 

Chipman also revealed Rovenstine's lack of cooperation, even after Indiana State Police took over the investigation of Bronson.

"Rovenstine refused to talk to state police," he explains. "In fact, he chose to play in a golf tournament on that particular day."

Things then took a turn. 

"The focus then became a retaliatory investigation of the Warsaw Police Department detective. In other worlds, 'World War III' and 'it would be very ugly,' in the words of Aaron Rovenstine," adds Chipman. 

He also added that the real problem stems from the culture in Kosciusko County, and the way the Sheriff's Department has operated.

State law dictates a two-term limit for certain elected positions, including sheriff. 

But, "Aaron Rovenstine is, or was, halfway through his third term," says Chipman.

That law, he explains, is there for a good reason, even if Kosciusko County doesn't abide by it. 

"The public rightly fears that concentration of law enforcement power in the hands of one elected official, leads to abuse and a culture of ownership," he continues.

Ownership that expanded to the courtroom, where nearly half the seats were occupied by county deputies. 

"I actually heard in the sentencing, an argument that they called the Sheriff's Department dependents. Actual dependents of the Rovenstines," adds Chipman. 

The overwhelming support inside the courtroom was not something that was overlooked by anyone in attendance.

"As you could tell in the courtroom, there was a big show of support for Mr. Rovenstine," says Heaton. "I think a lot of times people forget about the victims in the crimes, and they just focus on everything else but that."

ABC57 News was told that even more information would be revealed, as the case against Bronson and Mark Soto begins. 

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