Deputy clerk charged in Colorado election violation case pleads guilty, will testify against boss

Written by Benjamin Freed

Mesa County, Colorado, Clerk’s Assistant Tina Peters, who was charged alongside Peters earlier this year, admitted multiple charges Thursday and agreed to testify against Peters. The charges include that they tampered with voting materials, violated election rules, illegally copied data and shared it with unauthorized people in an attempt to prove a conspiracy theory about the 2020 presidential election.

Deputy Belinda Knisely pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges relating to her involvement in a May 2021 incident in which Peters and former Mesa County Chief Electoral Officer Sandra Brown allegedly cleared a man from name of Conan Hayes, a former professional surfer turned mini-celebrity. among 2020 election deniers, to witness a routine software update on the county’s stock of vote tabulation equipment—a process known in election administration as “trust building.”

The group allegedly took the opportunity to copy device hard drives and passwords, information that was shared later that summer at a conference hosted by Mike Lindell, the bedding manufacturer and leading proponent of lies. that the 2020 election was “stolen” from former President Donald Trump. .

Knisely agreed last June to admit the counts of trespassing, official misconduct and breach of his stated duties, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors going forward, according to a plea document. In exchange, prosecutors dropped more serious charges of conspiracy to impersonate a criminal and influence public officials.

Knisely is also banned for life from working in elections. Peters, who continues to hold office nominally and went on to campaign unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Colorado’s secretary of state – a loss she refused to concede and even raised more than $250,000 to recount by a margin of 14 percentage points – was suspended from electoral duties earlier this year by current Secretary of State Jena Griswold. Griswold, a Democrat, also backed legislation in May that tightened security checks on state voting technology and increased penalties for tampering with equipment.

Election officials across the country have in recent months denounced a growing risk of insider threats fueled by conspiracy theory against their technology assets and the administrators who oversee voting processes.

During Thursday’s plea hearing, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said Knisely has already helped the pending case against Peters, the Colorado Sun reported.

“His value to us as a witness – it’s important, it’s essential,” Rubinstein told the court.

He also said Knisely, 67, had personally suffered in the year since Mesa County’s election systems were breached, including that she suffered a heart attack shortly after. .

In addition to his lifetime ban from working for the election, Knisely will serve two years of probation and 150 hours of community service. Reading the agreement, Mesa County District Judge Matthew Barrett had harsh words for Knisely.

“You have engaged in concrete acts to undermine the integrity of our democratic process under the guise of protecting it,” he said, according to the Colorado Sun.

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