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Police arrest Mesa County clerk who promoted Trump’s false election claims

A photo of Tina Peters.

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters—who was recently barred from overseeing an election and has promoted former President Trump’s conspiracy theory that voting machines were manipulated to help Joe Biden win the presidency—was arrested at a bagel shop yesterday and accused of resisting a search warrant.

The search warrant was for an iPad that Peters was accused of using to record a court hearing in violation of court rules. Video of the brief detainment shows Peters being handcuffed and repeatedly shouting, “Let go of me… give me my key to my car!” The video shows her kicking her leg backward at one of the arresting officers while trying to escape their grasp. “Do not kick–you understand?” an officer told Peters.

The Grand Junction Police Department issued a statement saying that officers were present yesterday morning “to assist investigators with the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office who advised our officers they were executing a search warrant. Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters was arrested and released on scene, pending charges related to this incident… An arrest affidavit is being submitted and once it becomes available, will be released.”

Peters’ iPad “was confiscated by law enforcement at the bagel shop” and “will be examined by experts to determine whether Peters was recording,” CBS Denver reported. “While District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said police were not there initially to arrest Peters, but to execute the search warrant, police now plan to issue an arrest affidavit and file formal charges, possibly for obstruction of justice, which is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and possible jail time,” The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction reported.

Peters was seen using the iPad during a hearing in a criminal case involving Mesa County Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley. “Knisley currently faces the charges of burglary and cybercrime, for allegedly entering into a workplace in which she was prohibited and for accessing secure county computer systems when her authorization was revoked,” KJCT News wrote.

Peters faces lawsuit and home was raided by FBI

Yesterday’s police department statement said the “arrest is exclusively related to events that occurred today while Grand Junction Police Department officers were assisting the District Attorney’s Investigators on scene, and is not connected to any other ongoing investigations by any other law enforcement entities.”

We’ve previously written about how a Colorado judge barred Peters from supervising the November 2021 election due to the leak of voting-system BIOS passwords to QAnon conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins. The leak happened after Peters brought an outsider into a confidential meeting on election-software security. Peters falsely claimed the outsider was a Mesa County employee, and Knisley had the cameras in the Election Department turned off before the meeting, the judge’s ruling said. 

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold last month filed a lawsuit with the goal of ensuring that Peters cannot oversee elections in 2022. Griswold had previously issued an order “requiring Clerk Peters to certify, within 72 hours, under penalty of perjury that she would comply with election related security protocols. Clerk Peters declined to sign the Certification and Attestation of Compliance,” Griswold’s announcement of the lawsuit said.

Peters’ home was raided by the FBI in November as part of what Mesa County’s government called an investigation into “potential criminal activity by employees of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.” A grand jury is reviewing evidence from a “multi-agency investigation into allegations of Mesa County election equipment tampering and official misconduct.”

Affidavit details Peters’ iPad use

During the court hearing on Monday, a paralegal and deputy district attorney noticed “Peters using an Apple iPad to apparently record the proceeding,” according to an affidavit in support of the search warrant filed by Investigator Michael Struwe of the district attorney’s office. Judge Matthew Barrett then “addressed the audience about recordings being prohibited in court, per the posted sign at the entrance, as well as ‘common sense,'” and “cautioned the audience that if he learned of a recording, he would take appropriate legal action.”

“Peters represented to the court that she had not made any such recording,” the affidavit said. But the paralegal and deputy district attorney said they observed Peters pointing the iPad’s rear-facing camera toward the bench, and that the iPad’s Camera application was open and showing “a live view of the courtroom from the iPad’s vantage point,” the affidavit said. The affidavit said the iPad “would be material evidence in a subsequent criminal prosecution” for the crime of attempting to influence a public servant.

A spokesperson for Peters’ legal defense fund argued that the officers tried to confiscate more than just the iPad. “The search warrant presented listed exactly one item, an iPad with a white case,” a Peters spokesperson told The Denver Post. “Clerk Peters complied with that, then officers began attempting to take other items of personal property, not listed in the warrant including her car keys, which is illegal.”

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