By Jeremy Harlan and Shawna Mizelle, CNN
Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, along with her deputies Belinda Knisley and Julie Fisher, will not be allowed to oversee 2022 elections in the county, a Colorado district judge ruled Tuesday, marking the second time Peters has been removed from the same post.
Judge Valerie Robison’s ruling follows two days of testimony last month in a lawsuit brought by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold to prevent Peters, Knisley and Fisher from being the designated election official in the upcoming Mesa County primary and midterm elections.
“The Court’s decision today bars Peters from further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections and ensures Mesa County residents have the secure and accessible elections they deserve,” Griswold said as part of a statement released by her office following the ruling.
“Clerk Peters’ actions compromised Mesa County’s voting equipment and election security constituting one of the nation’s first insider threats where an election official, risked the integrity of the election system in an effort to prove unfounded conspiracy theories,” Griswold continued, adding, “Clerk Peters subsequently refused to affirm that she would comply with Colorado election rules and laws as the Mesa County DEO.”
CNN has reached out to Peters for comment.
In March, Peters and Knisley were indicted on multiple felony and misdemeanor counts by a county grand jury after an investigation into an election security breach in the Mesa County clerk and recorder’s office. Peters was also under investigation by the FBI and others for her alleged involvement in a security breach of the Mesa County election system last year. As part of their bond agreement, Peters and Knisley are not allowed to have contact with each other, victims mentioned in their felony indictments and any employee in the county clerk and recorder’s office.
The criminal investigation into the clerk’s office began after Griswold, a Democrat, accused Peters and her deputies of facilitating a security breach in May of last year. The breach resulted in confidential voting machine logins, and forensic images of their hard drives, being published in a QAnon-affiliated Telegram channel in early August 2021, according to previous CNN reporting.
Peters, a pro-Trump Republican running for Colorado secretary of state, has publicly asserted that the investigation was partisan and politically motivated.
Beginning in April 2021, according to the indictment, in advance of a May 25-26, 2021, trusted build of voting machines, Peters and Knisley “devised and executed a deceptive scheme” to influence public servants, breach security protocols, exceed permissible access to voting equipment and set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people. A “trusted build” is “the origin of the chain-of-custody for any software and firmware component of the voting system,” according to the indictment.
Colorado’s primary election is June 28. Clerks must have primary ballots available to voters starting May 27.
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