Colorado elections official indicted in security probe

By Calley Hair

March 9 (UPI) -- A grand jury has indicted Mesa County, Colo., Clerk Tina Peters as part of an investigation into an election security breach at her office last year.

Peters faces 10 criminal charges -- three felonies and seven misdemeanors -- including identity theft, attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, violation of duty and first degree official misconduct. If convicted, she could face prison time.


Her deputy clerk, Belinda Knisley, has been indicted on six counts including attempt to influence a public servant, violation of duty and conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation.

According to the Tuesday indictment, Peters and Kinsley "devised and executed a deceptive scheme which was designed to influence public servants, breach security protocols, exceed permissible access to voting equipment and set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people."

The pair is accused of facilitating a security breach of the county's election system. They allegedly helped an unauthorized person make copies of voting machine hard drives. Classified information, including voting machine passwords, were later disseminated by online voting conspiracy theorists who falsely claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.


The indictment also alleges that Peters and Kinsley committed identity theft against a local man, Gerald "Jerry" Wood, in order to grant an unidentified person access to the voting machine software updates and hard drives.

Peters counters that she was merely looking into potential election fraud.

"I have attempted to investigate the results of the elections, a duty that I have to my constituents," she told Colorado Public Radio. "They were coming to me."

In a joint statement announcing the indictment reported by The Colorado Sun, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said that other defendants may still be charged over the course of the investigation.

"We remind everyone that these are allegations at this point and that they are presumed innocent until proven guilty," Rubinstein and Weiser said.

Peters, a Republican, announced last month that she's running for Colorado secretary of state. She declared her campaign in an interview on Steve Bannon's War Room, a rightwing podcast hosted by the former Trump adviser.

Colorado Republican leadership issued a formal statement on Wednesday urging Peters to suspend her campaign until her case is resolved.

"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," said Colorado Republican Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown, Vice Chairwoman Priscilla Rahn and Secretary Marilyn Harris.


"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 indictment doesn't prevent Peters from seeking office, though she may not be able to serve in the role if she's imprisoned.

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