'Core investigation' of Tina Peters election breach complete but federal probe should continue, DA says

Rubinstein: "We have asked the United States Attorney's Office to continue its investigation"
tina peters election night primary
Posted at 5:19 PM, Aug 30, 2022

DENVER — Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said Tuesday that the core part of the joint investigation with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office into Tina Peters’ and others’ alleged election systems breaches is complete and that he has asked a parallel federal investigation to continue.

Rubinstein said he and Attorney General Phil Weiser will ask a judge at Peters’ arraignment, which is scheduled for Sept. 7, to set a trial date in her case and that of others who have been indicted or charged as codefendants. Rubinstein said he wanted a judge to set the “earliest possible” date for a trial for Peters.

“We have asked the United States Attorney’s Office to continue its investigation into all potential perpetrators of federal crimes related to the events in Mesa County,” Rubinstein said in a news release. “Attorney General Weiser and I are very aware of the need for this community to move the remaining cases through the court system.”

Rubinstein’s announcement comes less than a week after Mesa County Deputy Clerk and Recorder Belinda Knisleyagreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against Peters, former election manager Sandra Brown, and any other people who might potentially be charged in connection with the May 2021 Mesa County election system security breach.

She pleaded guilty Thursday to three misdemeanors – criminal trespass, violation of duty, and first-degree official misconduct – in two separate cases and was sentenced, only avoiding jail because that was what the plea agreement asked for, Judge Matthew D. Barrett said.

Knisley had been indicted alongside Peters by a Mesa County grand jury in March and was charged with attempting to influence a public servant, conspiracy, violation of duty, and failing to comply with the secretary of state.

Peters was indicted on three counts of attempting to influence a public servant; one count of conspiracy to commit attempting to influence a public servant; criminal impersonation; conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation; identity theft; first-degree official misconduct; violation of duty; and failing to comply with the secretary of state.

Peters faces 11 total charges in the election tampering case.

Brown, the former elections manager who was fired for her involvement of last year’s breach, was arrested in July and charged with one count of attempt to influence a public servant and two counts of criminal impersonation – all felonies.

Knisley, who was suspended on Aug. 23, 2021, and barred from performing work for Mesa County, had participated in a proffer session in early June in which she spoke with state and federal investigators for seven hours about the scheme, allegedly masterminded by Peters, to copy hard drive images of the county’s election systems and allow an unauthorized man named Conan Hayes into the trusted build of the election machines with the Secretary of State’s Office and Dominion Voting Systems.

What Knisley told investigators during that proffer session led to the charges against Brown and included new details about the alleged scheme and what exactly unfolded, according to court documents and what Rubinstein said in court during Knisley’s hearing.

The documents said Knisley discussed “other individuals who may have various levels of criminal responsibility for the planning, preparation and/or execution” of the scheme to copy the hard drive images. Knisley told the court that she acted at the orders of Peters.

Last August, video of the trusted build and passwords for the voting systems were posted online by right-wing conspiracy theorists who sympathize with Peters’ election denial efforts. The copies were posted while she was at Mike Lindell’s so-called election symposium.

Federal law enforcement officials have said little about their side of the investigation since announcing last August the FBI was involved to determine if any federal crimes were committed, and as of Tuesday, no federal charges had been unsealed against those charged in district court.

In addition to the criminal case involving the election systems breach, Peters also faces a protection order violation case and one involving obstructing a peace officer and obstructing government operations.

A report from the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office released in May found no evidence that there was outside interference in the 2020 or 2021 elections, as Peters and the others have claimed.