DENVER — Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters is facing a potential obstructing a peace officer charge after an incident at a Grand Junction bakery Tuesday. Mesa County authorities issued an arrest warrant Wednesday.
The incident stems from an attempt by investigators to serve a search warrant for Peters's iPad, which was allegedly used by Peters to record a court hearing Monday involving her deputy clerk’s burglary and cybercrime charges.
Peters, who is under investigation over alleged election security breaches, and others were at a downtown bakery in the 600 block of Main Street in Grand Junction Tuesday morning when investigators from the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office were attempting to serve the warrant, according to an affidavit.
Investigators were speaking with Peters and a group sitting with the clerk, asking if they had the iPad. During this conversation, people in Peters’s group began passing the tablet around, the documents state.
At some point, officers with the Grand Junction Police Department were called to the business to assist investigators in retrieving the iPad. The device was eventually obtained by authorities, but not before an alleged confrontation between officers and Peters, according to the affidavit.
When officers arrived inside the bakery and approached Peters, she was placed in handcuffs for actively obstructing officers, according to the affidavit. As an officer was attempting to double lock the handcuffs, the county clerk allegedly used her right foot to try to kick one of the arresting officers. Peters was told by officers, “Do not Kick! Do you understand?” And “please relax,” the documents state. But the clerk replied by yelling, “No!”
Peters was taken outside the business because of the disturbance she was creating, the affidavit said. While outside, Peters continued to struggle with officers while an unidentified woman, who was recording the incident, got too close to police, according to the affidavit, and was told back up. The woman refused officers’ commands and was removed from the area.
After the scene continued outside, investigators from the DA’s office informed officers not to take Peters into custody at the time, despite officers having probable cause to make an arrest, because the DA’s office had potential charges related to tampering with physical evidence and a charge of obstruction would be considered separately by prosecutors, according to the affidavit.
Prosecutors allege Peters used the iPad to record a court hearing in a Mesa County courtroom Monday afternoon. The hearing was in connection to a criminal case against Mesa County Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley, who is accused of being at a county building and using her boss’s computer while she is on administrative leave.
During Monday's proceeding, where Peters was allegedly seen with the iPad, the judge addressed the audience, reminding them that recordings are prohibited, which the judge said is also posted on signs at the entrance of the courtroom, according to the search warrant. Later during the hearing, Peters allegedly made statements in the courtroom, denying that she was recording "and those accusing her of recording were not being truthful," the warrant stated.
Tuesday’s incident comes a little more than three weeks after the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced it had convened a grand jury to investigate the allegations of official misconduct and tampering with county election equipment involving Peters and other Mesa County election workers that first came to light last year.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold in mid-January also filed another lawsuit seeking to block Peters from overseeing the 2022 elections, as was the case for the November 2021 election.
There have been multiple investigations into allegations Peters tampered with county election equipment and committed official misconduct after the county’s election system was compromised and images of hard drives were put onto election conspiracy theory websites last year.
A Department of State investigation found that Knisley and another county clerk’s employee helped a man named Gerald Wood get into a May 25, 2021, “trusted build” of the county’s Dominion election system by misrepresenting his role. Investigators believe that is where the images of the passwords were taken.
In August, the secretary of state’s office said Peters and two other people went into a secure room where Mesa County’s voting equipment is kept two days before an upgrade and copied hard drive images of election management software.
On Aug. 2, video of the trusted build and the passwords for the voting system were posted on Telegram and right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit, and the hard drive image copies were posted online a week later while Peters was at Mike Lindell’s symposium.
The FBI said in mid-August it was assisting the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office with this investigation to determine if any federal crimes were committed.
In mid-October, a Mesa County judge ruled that Peters was prohibited from participating in the November 2021 election, finding she committed a breach of and neglected her duties. This came in the wake of Griswold and a Mesa County elector suing Peters and Knisley, and barring them from overseeing any part of the election.
A multiagency task force executed search warrants in November at four locations in western Colorado amid the ongoing investigation.
Peters said when the grand jury investigation was publicly announced that it would prove her innocence.
“I’ve never done anything wrong, and it’s going to show that,” she said.
Peters is now one of three Colorado county clerks under investigation for potential election security breaches tied to them each making copies of the election systems hard drives. The clerk and recorders in Elbert and Douglas counties are also under investigation.