Whether Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and others are charged with criminal acts related to tampering with election equipment and official misconduct will be in the hands of a grand jury.
That’s because Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser got approval from the county’s grand jury to hear the evidence their two offices have been amassing for months.
In a joint statement released early Thursday, Rubinstein and Weiser said going to a grand jury, instead of filing charges on their own, will help ensure the decision to indict Peters and others can be done in an atmosphere that is secure and fair.
“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 two men said in the statement. “This investigation will be thorough and guided by the facts and the law.”
While the statement didn’t say who would be the target of the grand jury probe, it did say it was related to election machine tampering, and the only people who have been under investigation for that since August have been Peters, Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley, former Elections Manager Sandra Brown, Fruita resident Gerald Wood and Garfield County resident Sherronna Bishop.
Those five, and possibly others, have been embroiled in an attempt to show that the 2020 election was fraudulent and that the Dominion Voting System equipment used to conduct it were faulty.
The five have repeatedly pointed to before- and-after images of that equipment’s computer software, saying that 29,000 election files were deleted in a routine software upgrade. Local and state elections officials, however, have repeatedly said no election files were destroyed, adding that all election files for the past 25 months have been preserved along with the actual paper ballots and envelops, as is required by law.
Prosecutors and the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office were first alerted to issues with possible breaches in election security of the county’s election equipment in early August when secure passwords to access them were published on a conspiracy theory social media account.
Later, at a so-called election symposium sponsored by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump and believer the election was stolen from him, Peters herself revealed the before-and-after images of the computer hard drive.
According to various court documents and Secretary of State elections orders, Peters brought Woods into secure areas of her office on a Sunday night in late May, who she later admitted was was not authorized to be there, and helped Peters make those images.
The documents also show that Knisley had ordered video cameras to be turned off days before that occurred, and that Brown was with Peters and Woods when images of the passwords were believed to have been made.
Bishop’s involvement in any possible criminal aspect of the case is less known, but she was with Peters at the Lindell event, moderating her appearances there, and has been at Peters’ side since the beginning. Bishop once worked as the campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-3rd.
When the grand jury will meet, what witnesses they will hear from, what evidence will be presented and whether Peters and other potential suspects are subpoenaed won’t be revealed whether the jury elects to indict or not because all aspects of a grand jury are kept secret.
“More information will be made available when the prosecutors are ethically and legally permitted to provide additional details,” Rubinstein and Weiser said in the statement.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation also is separately looking into the case as possible wire fraud, which carries prison terms of up to 20 years, but it is unknown when or even if charges will be filed.