Attorneys who received copies of Elbert Co. election system hard drive copies identified

One is former Republican House minority leader
dallas schroeder elbert county clerk and recorder hard drive images
Posted at 4:27 PM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 22:33:55-04

DENVER – There were two previously unnamed attorneys who were in possession of hard drive images of Elbert County’s election system, one of them a former Republican Colorado House minority leader, according to court documents released Monday.

The two attorneys were identified in court documents as Joe Stengel, a Denver attorney and former Republican Colorado House minority leader, and Ric Morgan, an Elbert County attorney who is also listed on the county’s website as its Veterans Services Officer.

The unveiling of the private attorneys’ identities is one of the things Secretary of State Jena Griswold had sought in election orders she made after Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder made copies of the county’s election system hard drives last year. Schroeder had said he had given one copy to his attorney, John Case, and another to an unidentified "private attorney."

On Monday, Denver7 obtained documents filed in response to an order from Elbert County District Court Judge Gary Kramer he issued earlier this month, which required Schroeder to turn over all copies of the hard drive images he had made and required him and his attorney, John Case, to answer questions previously posed to him in election orders earlier this year. Reuters first reported the contents of the unsealed documents.

Griswold sued in February after some of the initial responses to the orders did not fully answer questions posed to Schroeder. According to a filing, Schroeder had given one of two hard drive images he made to an unidentified “private attorney” whom he and Case had declined to identify for months until the judge's order earlier this month. The other was delivered to Case, according to those documents.

But the newly unsealed documents say the two hard drive images actually ended up in two unidentified attorneys’ hands after Case hired an attorney of his own, Joe Stengel, and Schroeder gave one to him as well as attorney Ric Morgan.

According to sworn affidavits from Case, Morgan, and Stengel, Schroeder gave one of the copies to directly to Morgan, putting the copy in a pouch that he dropped off at Morgan’s office. Morgan said in his affidavit, dated March 4, that he put it under lock and key in a secure storage cabinet in his office.

Morgan said he never moved it or opened it, and at some point in time, got it back out of the locked cabinet and gave it back to Schroeder “without ever having been opened or interfered with in any way.”

Case said in an affidavit dated May 4 that Schroeder gave him a red metal box — the other hard drive copy — with a custody log taped to the cover on Jan. 22. A yellow plastic seal was still intact and attached to the box’s latch. Case said in the affidavit he drove the box to his home and put it under his bed.

On Jan. 25, Case hired Stengel as counsel. On the same day, according to Stengel’s affidavit and his own, he drove the box to Stengel’s house, tried to shove it under a seat, and gave it to Stengel around 9 a.m.

On May 4, Stengel returned it to Case, but the yellow plastic seal was broken. In his affidavit, Case said he assumes the seal on the latch must have broken when he tried to shove it under the seat while taking it to Stengel in the first place.

Case swore in the affidavit he has no personal knowledge of the contents of the metal box and that he never opened or tried to open it. He also said he did not intentionally damage the seal.

Schroeder, the county clerk and recorder, had previously said after making the initial hard drive image he kept it under “lock and key” in the election office in Elbert County.

After getting the box back from Stengel, according to Case, Case put the box in his car, attended a funeral, and then drove to Kiowa to give the box back to Schroeder.

In Stengel’s sworn affidavit, dated May 4, he corroborated Case’s statements that Case hired him on Jan. 25 and delivered the red box on the same day.

Stengel said he put the box in a fireproof safe. On Feb. 3, according to Stengel, Case told him to remove the box from the safe and take photographs of its outside. Stengel swore that Case asked him to do the same on April 13.

Those photographs from both days were included as exhibits in that filing. All of the photographs showed the yellow seal was broken on Feb. 3 and April 13.

Stengel swore in his affidavit the box was never opened while it was in his possession and that he handed the box back to Case on May 4 in the same condition in which it came to him.

Stengel and Case previously were law partners, and Stengel served in the Colorado House as a Republican from 2000 to 2006. He moved up to Minority Leader before he resigned in 2006 while facing an ethics investigation, The Denver Post reported at the time.

Case, Stengel and Morgan did not respond to requests for comments from Denver7 on Monday or Tuesday.

The details that Schroeder had made images of the hard drives came to light in an affidavit Schroeder signed on Jan. 7 as part of a lawsuit that claimed the election software used by Colorado counties in 2020 was not properly certified — claims that still have never been substantiated.

In the affidavit from January, Schroeder said he “made a forensic image of everything on the election server” ahead of a “trusted build” of the county’s election system ahead of the 2021 election.

Two others not employed by the clerk and recorder’s office gave Schroeder instructions over the phone on how to make the hard drive images. They were identified in the filling as Shawn Smith and Mark Cook, though no other information about their connection to Schroeder was released.

In the order from Judge Kramer earlier this month, he wrote that the two election orders Griswold issued were within her statutory rights as secretary of state and that Schroeder must comply with both.

“The fact that the Clerk and Recorder does not trust the Secretary of State to perform her official duties does not excuse his duty to comply with her orders,” Judge Kramer wrote.

Schroeder’s case has been one of two in Colorado that have garnered national headlines surrounding election security and alleged voting system breaches. The other involves Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, the Republican who allegedly helped breach the county’s election system and hard drive images were leaked on far-right websites. Peters was again removed as the designated election official in Mesa County and faces a grand jury indictment, along with her deputy clerk.

Denver7's Meghan Lopez contributed to this report. It has been updated to clarify to whom Case and Schroeder gave the copies.