Bronson testifies in Soto trial, cross-examination today

In a recorded phone call from jail, Kevin Bronson told a pastor if he went to prison there would be kids hanging from trees.

Recorded calls were played Friday in Kosciusko Circuit Court during day four of Dr. Mark Soto’s trial.

In one phone call, Bronson, who was upset with his possible prison sentence, tried to get Soto to intervene on his behalf.

Bronson regularly threatened the wrath of the Aryan Brotherhood and mafia on people who didn’t do what he wanted, witnesses said during earlier testimony.

In one recording, Soto told Bronson that no one was believing his stories and “someone should do something to prove” it.

Bronson said if he went to prison, things would happen and then people would believe him because people would be gone.

Soto, a former Grace College professor, is on trial facing three felony counts of intimidation and three counts of corrupt business influence.

Soto was indicted by a grand jury in February 2016, along with Bronson and former Kosciusko County Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine.

Before Bronson’s testimony Friday, special Judge Stephen Bowers denied a motion to close part of his testimony.

The motion had been filed by special prosecutor Tami Napier, asking for protection for Bronson against gang retaliation. Bowers denied the motion, saying the court had heard evidence about the gang, and Bronson was  on the Aryan Brotherhood’s radar before this case.

Bronson, a world champion in martial arts, moved to Warsaw in 1995. Shortly after Bronson moved to the area, Soto took him under his wing as a spiritual mentor.

Soto stuck with Bronson through multiple arrests and crises.

Bronson testified that his father paid Soto $240 for counseling services. Bronson said his father wanted Soto to guide him on the Christian path. Earlier Friday, Bronson testified his dad wasn’t a Christian.

Bronson testified he promised future funds either from his wealthy father’s will or a proposed movie deal on Bronson’s life.

Soto was listed as executor of Bronson’s will.

After Bronson was arrested on a cocaine charge in 2014, his father wrote him out of his will due to a clause that required him to stay out of the criminal justice system.

Bronson said he was approached in 2009 about making a movie about his life.

He used the Men Following Christ group and Christ’s Covenant Church Pastor Nate McLaurin to raise funds.

Prosecutors say donations to Bronson and Soto were used by them for personal expenses.

Once Warsaw police began investigating the fundraising efforts, they listened to recorded jail phone calls made by Bronson. Prosecutors entered those calls into evidence Friday.

While in jail, Bronson would call Soto once a day, sometimes more often.

Bronson usually would give Soto a demand, such as   bring him books or money, or talk to the sheriff about his accommodations.

In many of the calls, Bronson was angry about the way the jail was treating him, even about the type of deodorant he was using.

Soto would say he would  make arrangements with then-Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine or then-jail commander Lt. Don Wiesehan to allow Soto to bring Bronson  extra stuff.

Inmates are only allowed approved items sold in the commissary. Jail adminstration officials can approve extra items on a case-by-case basis.

Many of the calls followed  a similar pattern. Soto would tell Bronson he wasn’t in control, but would talk to jail staff or see what he could do.

In some calls, Soto appeared to be exasperated with Bronson, telling him he was spending too much time away from his family, students and his preaching duties.

“You can’t keeping doing this,” Soto said.

Despite calls where Bronson said was unhappy with his circumstances in the jail, he testified earlier that he lived like a king in the jail and was able to do what he wanted.

During calls, Bronson made several references to “Crazy,” “God” and “Sky,” all nicknames for supposed leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood.

“These are people that  made Obama cower in his office and not leave,” Bronson said.

Bronson said the Brotherhood had placed a device in his ear so they could communicate with him.

“I got Sky yelling at me to hang up with you,” he said in one call. “Sky’s been screaming at me all day.”

Bronson mentioned how Sky was angry that jail staff put him in solitary confinement after a fight in the jail.

In several calls he said  Sky was upset about his then-wife Lisa Bronson filing for divorce.

At one point Friday, Bronson asked, “Do we have to keep listening to calls about my ex-wife?”

Bronson was able to contact Soto despite him changing his phone number. Bronson said he couldn’t remember how he kept getting Soto’s number.

In one phone call, Bronson told Soto he shouldn’t worry about anything because “you haven’t done anything illegal.”

Bronson also said the Brotherhood wanted a movie made about his role in the gang.

Bronson’s testimony about McLaurin’s involvement  in the movie contradicted McLaurin’s Wednesday testimony.

Bronson said McLaurin came aboard to “sing a song about redemption” and because he wanted a movie about Bronson’s turn to Christianity to be made. Bronson said McLaurin thought the movie would be a big hit and agreed to raise $300,000 for the investment.

On Wednesday, McLaurin testified that he only got involved because he thought he was on the Brotherhood’s hit list, and people would die if the movie was never  made. McLaurin also said he had agreed to pay about $30,000 for the movie that would help Bronson pay for his living expenses as well.

Bronson’s testimony took most of Friday. He will be cross-examined by Soto’s attorney, Scott Lennox, when the trial resumes Monday.