Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 10:37 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2022 at 9:59 PM MST
MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV/AP) - A grand jury in Colorado indicted a county election clerk who sowed doubt about the 2020 presidential election.
The indictment alleges Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters was part of a “deceptive scheme” to breach voting system technology that is used across the country. Over the past year, Peters has appeared onstage with supporters of former President Donald Trump who made false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
11 News confirmed in February that Peters was arrested and released by police. The arrest affidavit can be viewed below this article.
Counts include attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation and first-degree official misconduct. Also facing charges in the case is Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley.
Wednesday afternoon, Peters reportedly turned herself in. Her bond was originally expected to be set at $500,000. During a court appearance on Thursday a judge set her bond to $25,000. The judge also ordered Peters could not leave the state without permission. Her next court appearance is scheduled for May 24, an arraignment.
The deputy clerk for Peters, Belinda Knisley, was also taken into custody on charges tied to the case. Knisley turned herself in and her bond was set to $10,000 on Thursday. Both Peters and Knisley bonded out of jail Thursday evening.
Peters is also running for Secretary of State. The following was sent out by her campaign Wednesday:
The Colorado secretary of state issued a statement on the indictment:
“Every eligible Coloradan – Republican, Democrat, and Unaffiliated alike – has the right to make their voice heard in safe, accessible, and secure elections. To do that, we need election administrators who are committed to following the law and election rules. Officials tasked with carrying out elections do so in public trust and must be held accountable when they abuse their power or position,” said Secretary Jena Griswold. “As Secretary of State, I will always protect Colorado’s election infrastructure and Coloradans’ right to vote, which means upholding election laws and rules to ensure the security and integrity of the state’s elections.”
Peters is being charged with three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, one count of conspiracy to commit attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, identify theft, first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty, and failing to comply with the rules of the Secretary of State. Knisley is charged with three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, one count of conspiracy to commit attempting to influence a public servant, violation of duty, and failing to comply with the rules of the Secretary of State.
In August 2021, Secretary of State Griswold initiated an investigation into the breach of election security protocol in Mesa County. The investigation uncovered that voting equipment was compromised and election rules violated. Secretary Griswold decertified the election equipment in Mesa County, and successfully filed a lawsuit to request a judge to bar Clerk Peters and Deputy Clerk Knisely from overseeing the 2021 election.
In January 2022, Secretary of State Griswold proceeded with an additional lawsuit to request a judge bar Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters from overseeing the 2022 elections. The lawsuit asks a judge to remove Peters as the Designated Election Official (DEO) during 2022. This legal action followed the refusal of Peters to certify under penalty of perjury that she would comply with the security protocols as the Mesa County DEO for the 2022 elections.
In the filing, the Secretary of State’s office requested the Court to appoint Brandi Bantz as the DEO for Mesa County to ensure the smooth and secure operations of the 2022 Primary and General elections. Both the Mesa County Commissioners and the Secretary of State’s office support the appointment of Bantz. A DEO is the person responsible for running elections for a local government, like a municipality or a county. They make determinations regarding elections issues for their municipality or county. The Secretary of State does have the authority to appoint election supervisors.
Clerk Peters’ actions constituted one of the nation’s first insider threats where an official, elected to uphold free, fair, and secure selections risked the integrity of the election system in an effort to prove unfounded conspiracy theories.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. KKTV contributed to this report. All rights reserved.