TINA PETERS booking

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters booking photo, taken on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, when she turned herself in to the Mesa County Sheriff's Department and was released after paying a $500 bond. Peters is facing a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer stemming from an incident earlier in the week when officers seized an iPad while serving a search warrant.

The day after a $255,000 recount for Secretary of State confirmed her primary loss, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters was formally arraigned on 10 felony and misdemeanor charges over alleged tampering with elections equipment more than a year ago.

Peters, represented by attorney Harvey Steinberg, pleaded not guilty to all charges. Peters has maintained her innocence from the start and dismissed the charges as part of a politically motivated attempt by officials from both parties to muzzle supporters of former President Donald Trump.

A jury trial, requested by Peters, is set for Jan. 26-27. 

A Mesa County grand jury indicted Peters on March 8, with many of the same charges for Deputy Clerk Brenda Knisley.

Peters was charged with three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, a second conspiracy charge that includes "cause liability," identity theft, first degree official misconduct, violation of duty and failure to comply with requirements of the Secretary of State. The first six are felonies; the last four are misdemeanors. 

An affidavit, filed in July by the 21st Judicial District for the arrest of former Mesa County Elections Manager Sandra Brown, shows how the alleged election security breach took place in May 2021.

  • On April 16, 2021, Jessi Romero, the voting systems manager for the Secretary of State, contacted Brandi Bantz, the Mesa County elections director, to reject a request from Mesa County to allow members of the public to be present during a "trusted build" update of Mesa County election equipment. He reminded Bantz that only personnel from Dominion, the Secretary of State's office, and county employees could be present. Romero also said the "trusted build" would be done under camera security. The first felony charge, attempting to influence a public servant, is tied to efforts to allegedly influence Romero.
  • On April 23, Peters convened a meeting with Knisley, Bantz, Brown and Stephanie Wenholz, another elections manager. Someone secretly recorded that meeting on a cell phone and turned that recording over to investigators, the affidavit said. Also present: Sheronna Bishop, formerly the campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt; Douglas Frank of Ohio; and, Maurice Emmer of Aspen. Emmer was identified in the affidavit as an associate of Bishop, Frank and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. None are employees of Mesa County. During that meeting, Frank claimed the voting equipment could be accessed remotely. Later in the discussion, Peters invited Frank to sit in on the "trusted build" scheduled for May 25-26. He declined but said he had a team that could do it. Bantz and Wenholz were then asked to leave the room. The second influence charge is for the effort to allegedly influence Wenholz. 
  • On May 13, Knisley sought an ID badge and county email address for Gerald Wood, telling the county's human resources department he was a temporary hire for the elections department. Two charges, one for identity theft and the other for criminal impersonation - cause liability, are tied to efforts to allegedly impersonate Wood. 
  • On May 17, Knisley began the process to shut down the video surveillance of the tabulation room where the "trusted build" would take place. That same day, Wenholz was told she was being taken off the "trusted build" team. She was also told that Wood was a new administrative assistant for Brown. Wenholz, who does background checks on new employees, never met Wood, which was not standard protocol, according to the affidavit. Two days later, Wood was asked to turn in his ID badge to Knisley. He never worked for the county.
  • On May 20, Bishop, using her personal credit card, booked a hotel room in Grand Junction for May 22 to May 26 for Conan James Hayes, a California surfer and apparel company owner who allegedly has been involved in activities in Arizona and Michigan relating to claims the 2020 elections were rigged.
  • On May 23, records show key cards for Peters, Brown and Wood were used to enter the elections area. The affidavit said that, on that date, someone "unlawfully took a digital image of the entire Dominion hard drive for the specific purpose of analyzing the software and data" and that Peters "later publicly admitted to this act." The "trusted build" took place on May 25 and May 26. Those present included Peters, the person identifying himself as Wood, and Brown, as well as personnel from Dominion and the Secretary of State's office. Several individuals told the District Attorney's investigator that the man identified as Wood was introduced to them as an administrative assistant.
  • On May 26, Peters and Brown accessed the elections area past normal business hours. The affidavit said someone at that time took a second digital image of the Dominion hard drive. Hayes, who had already left, according to the affidavit, was sent a package by Peters, using county funds, on May 27.

In June, according to the affidavit, Knisley claimed Peters told her to lie to the county's human resources department about Wood. The affidavit said that Peters told Knisley they had to protect the identify of the person who was coming in – who was not Wood – and that was why the cameras were turned off on May 17.

The official misconduct charge, a misdemeanor, states that Peters knowingly and unlawfully committed an act related to her office but one that was an unauthorized exercise of her official function or duty. The violation of duty charge, also a misdemeanor, states that Peters violated, neglected or failed to perform her duties or is guilty of corrupt conduct in the discharge of those duties.

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