GRAND JUNCTION — A Colorado County election clerk who was jailed after being charged with conspiring to breach voting system technology used in the United States made her first court appearance via video Thursday.
Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters made no comment during the brief hearing before District Court Judge Matthew Barrett as she watched from a distance from the county detention center. Peters turned herself in to authorities on Wednesday following a grand jury indictment alleging she was part of a “deceptive scheme” to violate state election systems in the western county of Colorado.
The judge reduced Peters’ bail from $500,000 to $25,000, but ordered him to surrender his passport and not leave Colorado until his next court date of May 24. He told Peters’ attorneys that he would consider a request to allow Peters to travel to North Carolina. to attend the funeral of his father, who according to his lawyers died during the night.
Peters wore a yellow prison shirt and patiently watched the hearing. The judge ordered him to have no contact with election workers, witnesses in the case or a co-defendant, Deputy County Clerk Belinda Knisley.
Peters called the charges against her a politically motivated attempt to sabotage her plans to run for Colorado secretary of state this year.
Knisley also denied any wrongdoing. The judge ordered her bail set at $10,000 and she was also ordered to avoid contact with Peters, the elections office and witnesses in the case.
Peters is a Republican elected in 2018 who has repeatedly appeared with supporters of former President Donald Trump who have made false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. She faces seven felony and three misdemeanor charges, including attempting to influence a public official, criminal impersonation and first-degree official misconduct.
The indictment, filed in Mesa County District Court, alleges that Peters and Knisley participated in a scheme designed to “breach security protocols, exceed authorized access to voting materials and trigger the distribution possible confidential information to unauthorized persons”.
State election officials first became aware of a security breach in Mesa County last summer when a photo and video of confidential voting system passwords were posted on social networks and a conservative website.
State officials say a copy of the Mesa County voting system hard drive was also distributed and posted online. The copy included proprietary software developed by Dominion Voting Systems which is used by election offices across the country. Experts say the unauthorized publication provided a potential “practice environment” that would allow anyone to search for vulnerabilities that could be exploited in a future election.
According to the indictment, Peters falsely presented a person as a county employee during a May 2021 visit by state officials to prepare county voting materials for last November’s election. County records showed that an access card assigned to the person was used to enter a secure area of the electoral office prior to the visit.
Federal authorities are also investigating.
Colorado’s current secretary of state, Democrat Jena Griswold, persuaded a judge to bar Peters from overseeing last year’s Mesa County election and sought a similar injunction for this year’s election. .