Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who lost the GOP nomination for Colorado secretary of state earlier this year, pleaded not guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges Wednesday afternoon, six months after a county grand jury indicted her following an election security breach investigation by local authorities.
District Judge Matthew Barrett set Peters’ trial for March 6, 2023.
Peters, a 2020 election denier, faces 10 counts – including three felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant, one felony account of criminal impersonation, two felony counts of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, one felony count of identity theft, and misdemeanor counts for first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty and failing to comply with requirements of the Colorado secretary of state – after an apparent security breach in Mesa County’s elections office in May 2021.
Last month, Peters’ deputy clerk, Belinda Knisley, reached a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for her cooperation and testimony against Peters. According to the signed plea deal, Knisley told investigators that Peters created a scheme that permitted an unauthorized person access to secure areas inside the clerk’s office and to the county’s election equipment. Knisley told investigators the individual gained access after he was given a badge fraudulently created by herself and Peters.
The breach resulted in confidential voting machine logins, and forensic images of their hard drives, being published in a QAnon-affiliated Telegram channel in early August 2021.
In May, after a lawsuit brought by Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a district judge stripped Peters of her duties overseeing this year’s elections in Mesa County. Peters, who has denied wrongdoing, has publicly asserted that the investigation was partisan and politically motivated.
Peters emerged as a prominent figure on the far right in Colorado after espousing former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Peters sought the Republican nomination for Colorado secretary of state – a position that would have allowed her to take over the election machinery in a state that conducts its elections entirely by mail, a process she has baselessly claimed is rife with fraud and said she wants to scrap.
But Republicans rejected Peters’ bid, instead nominating Pam Anderson, a former county clerk who has defended the integrity of Colorado’s elections and ran as someone competent to manage that process.