Former Mesa clerk Peters sues to halt prosecution
BY MARIANNE GOODLAND firstname.lastname@example.org
Former Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, who is slated to go on trial next year over allegations she tampered with the county’s election equipment, has sued in federal court to stop the prosecution.
Peters, a Republican, is suing U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold in U.S. District Court for Colorado.
Through her attorney, John Case, Peters claims the United States is conducting criminal and other proceedings against her for the unlawful purpose of retaliation and in violation of her First and 14th Amendment rights. Peters has denied all the allegations against her, claiming the charges are politically motivated.
The lawsuit attempts to halt an ongoing federal investigation and the state prosecution against Peters. It claims the “campaign launched by the State Defendants (Rubinstein and Griswold) against Peters in retaliation for her obedience to the law and her truth-telling concerning the malfeasance she discovered was punctuated by an aggressive campaign to personally disparage and denigrate Peters, falsely accusing her of illegal conduct.”
The federal investigation, launched in August 2021 and which was presented to a grand jury in 2022, “was undertaken to punish and retaliate against her for having exercised her rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to question the integrity of the November 2020 election and to intimidate and discourage her from continuing to do so,” the lawsuit states.
It claims Peters, as the elected clerk and recorder for Mesa County, exercised her authority and responsibility for running the 2020 election of presidential electors in Mesa County and the 2021 municipal elections in Grand Junction. The lawsuit further claims state law required her to maintain election records for 25 months after an election, which did not happen because, Peters says, the secretary of state ordered election officials to install a “Trusted Build” software upgrade to the hard drives of county computer voting systems. That update would have made it impossible to read the digital election records used in those two elections, according to a Dominion employee Peters said she spoke to before the update.
In May 2021, Peters arranged for a consultant to make a digital copy of the Dominion voting equipment hard drive, which took place when monitoring cameras were turned off. The consultant was later revealed to be using a false identification provided by Peters and/or her employees. Peters claims in the lawsuit she “lawfully exercised her authority” to arrange for the consultant to make the copy.
She then turned over that copy to several cybersecurity experts, the lawsuit says.
In August 2021, Griswold learned of the copy, which was revealed in a cybersecurity forum hosted by Mypillow CEO Mike Lindell and at which Peters appeared. Griswold then took control of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office and began an investigation.
That copy later showed up on social media and became part of unfounded claims by Peters that the 2020 election was stolen. Two of her former employees, Brenda Knisley and Sandra Brown, have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Peters.
The lawsuit says Griswold has described the forensic images made of the voting system as “unauthorized” and sought the prosecution of Peters and others in Peters’ office for making the forensic images.
Peters was indicted by a Mesa County grand jury in March 2022 on 10 counts of election equipment tampering and official misconduct. The counts included three felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant, one felony count of criminal impersonation, one felony identity theft charge and two felony conspiracy charges. She’s also been charged with first degree official misconduct, violation of duty and failing to comply with an order issued by the Colorado secretary of state, all misdemeanors.
She also faces three ethics complaints filed against her with the state’s ethics commission, although those complaints are on hold while the legal process in Mesa County proceeds.
In a statement, Griswold said, “Tina Peters compromised her own voting equipment in an attempt to prove the Big Lie and risked her constituents’ constitutional right to vote. Her attempts to evade accountability with this frivolous lawsuit will not work.”
Peters ran for secretary of state in 2022 but lost in the Republican primary to Pam Anderson.
LOCAL & STATE
The Gazette, Colorado Springs