Monday, August 15, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Embattled Colorado secretary of state candidate Tina Peters hit with criminal charges

Peters first came under scrutiny for leaking voting machine passwords and allowing unauthorized individuals to access voting equipment during a security update.

(CN) — Tina Peters, the Mesa County, Colorado, elections chief who's also running for secretary of state, faces criminal charges related to leaking voting machine passwords and processes last year, according to an indictment filed by the Mesa County district attorney's office Tuesday.

Peters, 67, faces three felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant, four felony counts related to impersonation and identity theft and a misdemeanor count each of official misconduct, violating her duties and failing to comply with the secretary of state’s requirements.

The indictment follows a grand jury investigation made up of citizens who elected Peters as county clerk and recorder, according to 21st Judicial District Attorney Daniel Rubinstein.

“This investigation is ongoing, and other defendants may be charged as we learn more information,” Rubenstein said in a statement.

The charges stem from events that took place between April and May 2021, when Peters first came under scrutiny. In addition to leaking voting machine passwords, prosecutors say Peters allowed unauthorized individuals to access voting equipment during a security update. Videos of the voting machine updates were broadcast over the social media site Telegram and the Gateway Pundit blog.

Earlier civil complaints accused Peters of letting a man named Gerald Wood access Mesa County voting equipment during the May 2021 update.

According to prosecutors, Peters asked Wood to help her back up Dominion voting machines and obtained credentials for him under the guise that he was a new state employee. In response to a subpoena, Wood told the county he never performed work for the county and returned his access badge the same day he received it.

During the trusted build, Peters introduced a man to Dominion employees as Gerald Wood, saying he was a motor vehicles employee training to transition to the election division.

According to the indictment, the grand jury reviewed evidence that supported Wood’s sworn testimony that he was not present at the trusted build — and Peters stands accused of impersonating Wood.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold applauded the charges in a statement Tuesday.

"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,” Griswold said.

But in a lengthy statement, Peters said the charges amount to a political hitjob because she's a Donald Trump supporter.

“Using a grand jury to formalize politically motivated accusations against candidates is tactic long employed by the Democrat Party. Using legal muscle to indict political opponents during an election isn’t new strategy, but it’s easier to execute when you have a district attorney who despises President Trump and any constitutional conservative like myself who continues to demand all election evidence be made available to the public," Peters said in the statement. "But a grand jury is one of the last cards the Democrats have to play here. They hope to influence voters enough with indictments and arrests and media drama during the primaries, to elect a weaker general election opponent for Secretary of State Jena Griswold.” 

Griswold had successfully sued to block Peters from participating in the 2021 election, then filed a second lawsuit in January to bar Peters from overseeing the 2022 primary and midterm elections. Rubinstein has also charged Peters with two misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer and obstructing government operations after a judge subpoenaed her on suspicion of filming a court hearing.

Amid the controversy, Peters announced her bid to unseat the secretary of state.

While under investigation for breaching election security, Peters has been embraced by a community of conservatives who subscribe to baseless conspiracy theories spread after Biden won the presidency in 2020.

Peters' bond as been set at $500,000.

Charges have also been filed against deputy clerk and recorder Belinda Knisley.


For a deeper dive into the conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election, listen to the episode of Courthouse News' podcast Sidebar titled "Divided Court, Divided Nation":


Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...