A Colorado elections official who has promoted conspiracy theories about former president Donald Trump’s 2020 loss has been indicted by a grand jury for alleged election tampering of her own.
Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters was indicted on Tuesday night, the county’s district attorney announced Wednesday. The charges stem from a scheme Peters allegedly orchestrated along with Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley, which resulted in images of Mesa County’s voting system and some of its passwords being posted online by Ron Watkins, who is closely tied to the QAnon collective delusion. Knisley was also indicted and arrest warrants were issued for both women.
Peters’ office has been under investigation since August, when the county’s election system passwords and other images were posted online. The Colorado secretary of state executed a search warrant at her office on Aug. 10, when Peters was in South Dakota to speak at MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium,” an event dedicated to trying to prove Trump’s false allegations of widespread voter fraud. Peters at the time blamed Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold for the breach.
Despite the ongoing investigations, Peters announced just last month that she would challenge Griswold for secretary of state in November.
The indictment alleges that Peters and Knisley worked together to give an unauthorized person access to Mesa County’s elections equipment. Peters had been posting conspiracy theories about the election since January 2021. In May, she asked the secretary of state’s office if she could invite members of the public to view a voting machine update, but that request was denied. Then, the indictment alleges, Peters and Knisley requested a county email address, security badge, and network login for “Gerald Wood,” alternately telling county and state officials that he was a temporary hire or an administrative assistant.
But Wood testified before the grand jury that he didn’t end up doing any work for Peters. Knisley asked him for his Social Security number so she could run a background check on him, and then he picked up an access badge printed for him by the county, he said. He gave the badge back to Knisley and Peters after a meeting on May 19.
Four days later, Wood’s badge was used along with Peters’ and Knisley’s to access secured elections offices, according to the indictment, and Peters introduced a man she called Gerald Wood to a state official on May 25. But Wood wasn’t there, the indictment alleges, and the grand jury was shown evidence corroborating his actual whereabouts on both dates. The county usually has security cameras monitoring its secured elections equipment, but the indictment alleges that Knisley had asked IT to turn them off on May 17 and they remained off through the 25th. Knisley told investigators that she had the cameras turned off under Peter’s orders.
Peters is charged with 10 counts in total, including one count of criminal impersonation, two counts of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, and one count of first-degree official misconduct. Knisley is charged with six counts in total, including violation of duty and one count of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation.
Knisley and Peters turned themselves in on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Mesa County sheriff.
“This investigation is ongoing, and other defendants may be charged as we learn more information,” Mesa County District Attorney Daniel Rubinstein said in a statement.
Peters has become a minor celebrity in the MAGA world and has been raising money for a legal defense fund. She announced her secretary of state run during an interview on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s show.
She was previously arrested in February of this year for allegedly taping court proceedings on her iPad, according to the Daily Beast.
This story was updated after Kinsley and Peters turned themselves in.