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Mesa County grand jury will investigate allegations of official misconduct, tampering with election equipment

Posted at 6:03 AM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 21:11:51-05

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — A Mesa County grand jury will investigate the allegations of official misconduct and tampering with county election equipment amid an ongoing investigation into accusations that an elections clerk was involved in a security breach of the equipment in 2021.

The 21st Judicial District Attorney's Office made the announcement early Thursday morning.

The county made national headlines in 2021 after security information from the county’s voting machines was leaked to a right wing website. According to the investigation as of late December, investigators say Mesa’s Clerk and Recorder, Republican Tina Peters, let an unauthorized person access the voting machines. That person was also present for a secure software system update.

In the announcement Thursday morning, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said the grand jury investigation will be "thorough and guided by the facts and the law." Their statement did not name anybody in particular.

Their full statement reads:

“Over the past few months, we have made progress in the multi-agency investigation into allegations of Mesa County election equipment tampering and official misconduct. The Mesa County grand jury accepted the case on January 12 and will assist with the investigation.

“A grand jury is an investigative body comprised of impartial citizens called from the community to serve. The grand jury is a core part of our criminal justice system, and the citizens who serve take their roles very seriously. Grand jury proceedings are secret and witnesses and people under investigation are dealt with privately to ensure fairness."

More information will become available once the prosecutors are permitted to share those details.

In August, the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said Mesa County Clerk Tina 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.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office said the investigation is ongoing into how special passwords for the county’s voting systems and other information ended up online and being discussed by Peters and others at Mike Lindell’s South Dakota symposium, in which they attempted unsuccessfully to show how prevalent and easy voter fraud was to commit. Griswold’s office confirmed two hard drive images were taken from voting systems — at least one of which is believed to have been taken on the evening of May 23, 2021 — two days before the “trusted build” attended by Dominion Voting Systems employees, staff with the secretary of state’s office, Peters, and Gerald Wood, a man who was not authorized to attend the yearly upgrade of the software.

By mid August, the FBI 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 Deputy Clerk Belinda 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.

In early January 2022, Griswold said she would allow Peters to preside over elections again if she agreed to certain conditions first. According to The Denver Post, Griswold wants Peters to sign documents saying she will comply with election security protocols that place limits on what she can do before Peters can resume her duties as the county’s designated election official.

In a brief news conference Thursday, Peters said she would not renege on her unsubstantiated election claims and said the grand jury would find she had not committed any crimes.

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters addresses grand jury investigation

"You know what I have to say to this gag order? This order that I shut up, stop [investigating] the election, apologize, and I can have my office back? ... I say never," Peters said. "You are the people who elected me, not the secretary of state. Not Joe Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland. Not the grand jury that is being called against me to try to prove I've done something wrong. I've never done anything wrong, and it's going to show that."

Peters also said she intends to run for reelection as the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder and would not be running for secretary of state. The secretary of state's office said it had no further updates as of Thursday afternoon.