What led up to Clerk Tina Peters, Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley indictments

Here is what led up to the grand jury convening, and the charges being filed
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 10:21 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - From Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) bringing forth the initial allegations of a security breach at the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, to 21st Judicial District Attorney Dan Rubinstein (R) opening his investigation — here is what led up to the grand jury convening, and charges being filed against Mesa Co. Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters (R) and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley.

Developments begin in Apr. 2021, when the sec. of state’s office notified the clerk’s office of a routine operation to update county voting systems called a “trusted build.”

County election systems are kept under video surveillance. Those cameras were not functioning during the election system update. The indictment against Peters and Knisley states that the deputy clerk began the process of turning off that video surveillance on May 17, 2021.

That trusted build occurred from May 25-26, 2021. The secretary of state’s executed the operation in conjunction with Dominion Voting Systems, the county’s vendor. The district attorney’s office is alleging that Clerk Peters implemented her “deceptive scheme” to breach security protocols and distribute confidential information during the trusted build.

According to the indictment, Peters and Knisley allegedly conspired to give a man named Gerald Wood unauthorized access to this update procedure. Only certain individuals, including representatives from the secretary of state’s office, the voting system vendor, and the clerk are allowed to be in the room during a trusted build. A secretary of state employee testified that Wood was present during the operation.

Then, in Aug. 2021, the secretary of state’s office became aware that images of sensitive county voting system information and related passwords were on the internet.

According to Griswold, “We know that the images were filmed on May 25, and there was a very small group, less than ten people, involved when those images were taken.”

“The secretary of state and Dominion Voting Systems actually destroyed an extensive amount of election records that are required to be preserved by law,” alleged Clerk Peters in regards to the trusted build. Independent elections expert David Levine with the nonpartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy has argued that the event logs allegedly lost during that operation are not protected under election law, and that their loss fails to constitute any significant concern.

Griswold’s office asked for a swath of information from the clerk’s office in response to that confidential information appearing online. According to the indictment, requests for further information were not fulfilled.

Regarding Griswold’s concerns, Peters asserted that, “The democrat secretary of state is very liberal. She has weaponized her office, and she’s using those that agree with her in infiltrate my office.”

On Aug. 12, the Griswold decertified the county’s voting equipment. She did so because she could not guarantee the integrity and security of the equipment, according to the indictment.

The secretary of state had harsh criticism for the clerk in response to her alleged activity. “What happened in Mesa Co. in 2021 was one of the nation’s first insider attacks where someone elected to oversee elections worked to compromise elections from within.”

The Colo. Republican Party weighed-in on this as well. A statement released on Wednesday asks Peters to suspend her own secretary of state campaign as she faces this felony indictment.

That statement reads in part, “It is our belief, as leaders of the Colorado Republican Party, that any Republican candidate who is indicted with felonies by a grand jury and who will be charged by a Republican District Attorney should suspend their campaign while they undergo the legal challenges associated with those indictments. The Republican Party is the Party of law and order and we need every Republican voter focused on getting Republicans and constitutional conservatives elected across Colorado in 2022. Today, we are asking Clerk Peters to consider what is best for the Republican Party in Colorado and act accordingly as she avails herself of our judicial system.”

The Tina Peters for Secretary of State campaign released a statement regarding these charges and the Colo. GOP’s request for her to suspend her campaign.

The statement reads in part, “[Colo. GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton] Brown’s role in hiring the same law firm to advise the Colorado GOP that defended the Dominion Voting Services, raises concerns about her grasp of the Republican base’s demand for more election transparency and integrity. And the timing of today’s press release by Brown, without even contacting the Tina Peters for Colorado Campaign in advance, calls into question the Republican party chairwoman’s impartiality in the primary.”

There are still a number of lawsuits facing clerk peters regarding a number of other charges not specifically related to the security breach in county voting systems. For more information on those, click here.

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