A review hearing on felony and misdemeanor charges filed against now-sidelined Mesa County Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley was delayed once again Monday.
This delay, however, wasn’t for the same reason as the last one, which was that Knisley was recovering from two surgeries because of a “traffic accident.”
This delay was part of an agreement between Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Knisley’s defense lawyer, Shannon Roy, to put the hearing off until Jan. 10 after state and federal investigations into possible criminal breaches of election security protocols are completed, Rubinstein said.
That means any possible charges against Knisley, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and others could be filed before then.
Knisley, 66, is facing a class 4 felony charge of second-degree burglary, and a class 2 misdemeanor charge of cyber crime. Those charges were filed in August after Knisley was placed on paid administrative leave and ignored an order to stay away from the clerk’s office for allegedly creating a “hostile” work environment in the clerk’s office.
She and Peters were later barred by a judge from participating in the fall election.
The burglary charge is based on allegations that Knisley unlawfully entered a “building or structure with intent to commit a crime against another person or property,” according to her arrest affidavit. That’s a class 4 felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The misdemeanor charge is for someone who knowingly accesses a computer or network without authorization. It is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The first hearing was delayed in September because Knisley was in a traffic accident earlier that month and shattered her right leg, causing her to have at least two surgeries on her shinbone and was on pain medication as a result, Roy wrote in a motion to District Judge Matthew Barrett asking for the delay.
A check with the Grand Junction Police Department, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado State Patrol, however, revealed no report of any traffic accident or traffic-related injury involving Knisley.
In a related matter, several residents Monday continued to question the integrity of the county’s election equipment, and a decision by the Mesa County Board of Commissioners to appoint or reappoint members to its Personnel Appeals Advisory Board, which hears appeals from county workers facing disciplinary action, including firings.
Some residents told commissioners they did so because of a “major” wrongful firing lawsuit that may be filed against the county over last week’s firing of one of Peters’ elections managers, Sandra Brown, who has been implicated in possible wrongdoing along with Peters and Knisley in elections security breaches.
“This is going to be serious for the county in a sense of the potential serious lawsuit against Mesa County for wrongful termination,” said Karen Seibold, a county resident who has repeatedly defended Peters’ actions and is a member of a voter-fraud conspiracy theory group.
Other local residents, such as Cory Anderson, questioned why former Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who was appointed as the county’s temporary designated election official while investigations into Peters are ongoing, chose to bring Dominion Voting System machines into Colorado because they have wifi access, which is a false claim, Williams and other election experts have repeatedly said.
Identifying himself as a Mesa County captain for the United States Election Integrity Project, a group that claims to have proof of fraud in the 2020 general election but has yet to produce actual evidence, repeated the false claim that thousands of election files were deleted during a routine computer software upgrade of the equipment earlier this year.
That prompted a stern response from Commissioner Janet Rowland, who said that Scott Gessler, who served as secretary of state just before Williams, as the one who first authorized the use of Dominion machines in the state.
“It was actually Scott Gessler, Tina Peters’ attorney, who brought Dominion to Colorado, and he did an assessment process with clerks across the state, and they agreed Dominion was the best option,” she said.
“It was when Wayne came to office as the secretary of state, he insisted on piloting them in a small county and a large county,” Rowland added. “The two counties (including Garfield) that use Clear Ballot do so because they piloted them and they liked it. It was Wayne Williams who allowed clerks across the state to choose.”
Rowland also asked residents to stop repeating the false allegation that 29,000 election files were deleted during a “trusted build” software update last May, which Peters claims happened when she made before-and-after images of election computer hard drives that she claims, falsely, prove they were tampered with.
“No election records were destroyed. Zero,” Rowland told the residents. “Election records are not stored on the server. They are moved onto a thumb drive and securely stored. That happens as a protocol after every election.
“On top of that, the Secretary of State’s Office emailed all the clerks, including Tina Peters and said, ‘Before we come to do the trusted build software update, make sure all your elections are moved from the server onto a thumb drive and stored securely,’ which they were,” Rowland added. “There are no records on the server that were destroyed. We have 100% of all of our elections records still in our custody.”