Rovenstine sentenced for intimidation, out as Kosciusko County sheriff

Published: May. 23, 2017 at 6:37 AM EDT
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Aaron Rovenstine is out as sheriff of Kosciusko County after being sentenced Tuesday for a single count of intimidation, a felony.

He will serve one-year probation and 250 hours of community service.

In February 2016, Rovenstine was accused of threatening a Warsaw police officer who was investigating allegations that the sheriff accepted bribes to grant an inmate special privileges.

Rovenstine originally faced 10 counts, including bribery and misconduct, but a plea deal struck just before his trial dismissed nine of them.

Rovenstine pleaded guilty to intimidation, a Level 6 felony.

In court Tuesday, Judge Stephen Bowers said if the circumstances were different, he would have put Rovenstine in prison and that he certainly considered it.

Judge Bowers of Elkhart County was appointed to this case as a special judge.

Tuesday, Detective Paul Heaton took the stand.

“I think a lot of times, people forget about the victims. I’m saddened for the community that this even had to take place,” said Detective Paul Heaton, Warsaw Police Department.

He testified that Rovenstine made him feel threatened.

“A threat to back off of the investigation or World War III would break out and it would be ugly, because I’m the sheriff and I have investigators too,” said Nelson Chipman, the special prosecutor in this case who is describing what Rovenstine allegedly told Heaton over the phone.

Heaton expressed the emotional pain he and his family have suffered throughout this process.

“I’m sure you all sensed what we've sensed, which is what we've been dealing over the past couple years, which is a bit of intimidation,” said Scott Whitaker, Chief of Police, City of Warsaw.

In court, Judge Stephen Bowers recognized the rift that's been created between the Kosciusko County Sheriff's Department and the Warsaw Police Department.

“There will be a rebuilding process.That's going to take place really from the new sheriff and from the sheriff’s department,” said Whitaker.

Prior to making his decision, Judge Bowers weighed the mitigating and aggravating factors. He recognized that Rovenstine has no prior criminal history and that it is unlikely he will commit a crime again; however, he said he believes this case created an immense distraction and took a great deal of resources from the community.

The judge also said that because any jail time Rovenstine received would be served at Kosciusko County Jail, he felt nothing good would come out of incarcerating him.

Rovenstine is now a convicted felon; the judge did not lower his sentence to a misedemeankr.

He has been stripped of his badge and position and will no longer be allowed to possess a firearm.

Special Prosecutor Nelson Chipman says it's something that is long overdue.

“As of the last 41 years, 27 of those years, either Aaron Rovenstine or his father have been sheriff. It is that atmosphere that culture that is problematic,” said Chipman.

Rovenstine is forbidden from running for sheriff ever again.

As part of his sentence, he is not allowed to complete any of his community service hours with the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department or his church.

In court Rovenstine gave a brief but tearful statement just before Judge Bowers handed down the sentence. He said he is "sorry for this whole mess." He also said he wished he could have lived by the Golden Rule, and that this time he failed.

Chief Deputy William ‘Rocky’ Goshert has taken over as acting sheriff.

Prosecutors say the earliest a new sheriff could be appointed would be about 30 days from now. Currently, it is unknown who Kosciusko County's newest 'top cop' will be.