ELKHART – A judge ordered a “test jury” to determine whether Kosciusko County Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine can get an impartial jury with local residents in his bribery and corruption trial in February.
On Friday, in Elkhart County Superior Court I, Special Judge Evan Roberts set Nov. 4 as the day where he and the lawyers will summon a potential jury and ask questions to determine their objectivity.
Rovenstine was arrested in February 2015 on 10 felony counts that include three counts of bribery, five counts of official misconduct, one count of intimidation and one count of assisting a criminal.
The judge will summon about 25 jurors for duty and then determine whether the trial needs to be moved.
“I don’t want to start this trial in February and run through 100 potential jurors and not find people who can be impartial,” Roberts said.
Roberts said that moving the case could prove difficult as there aren’t many good options to go to. He said he was worked out the logistics of finding a courtroom if the case had to be moved.
Special Prosecutor Nelson Chipman said he wasn’t as concerned about where the trial takes place as much as making sure the jury can remain impartial.
“He was an elected official, his dad was a elected official, we want to make sure the state has a fair trial, too,” said Deputy Special Prosecutor Tammy Napier.
Rovenstine’s attorney, Jennifer Lukemeller, spoke by telephone and had no objection to the test jury.
She asked the judge if there was a way to keep the public from finding out about the test jury plans, but with media already in the room, the judge said it was too late for that.
Rovenstine was indicted for allegedly agreeing to accept a bribe to allow Kevin Bronson and Mark Soto, a former Grace College professor, to meet unmonitored while Bronson was in jail.
Bronson and Soto became connected while Bronson was claiming a movie about his former life as a criminal and conversion to Christianity was being made.
Bronson was able to get many people in church invested in making the movie, both financially and emotionally.
Bronson was arrested for cocaine possession and the movie was never made.
Bronson and Soto are scheduled together on?Dec. 13.
Soto’s attorney, Scott Lennox, brought a motion before Roberts to ensure a Kosciusko?County jury. The state had no objection, and Roberts approved the motion.
“We’re not as worried with people being partial to Soto as we are with Rovenstine,”?Chipman said.
Whether the trial will place physically in Elkhart or Kosciusko County is still undetermined, Lennox said.
Michael Anderson, Times Union