Former Mesa County Elections Manager Takes Deal: Will Testify Against Tina Peters?

Former Mesa County Elections Manager Takes Deal: Sandra Brown, a former Mesa County Elections Manager, pled guilty on Wednesday to two charges relating to a case of tampering with election equipment in Mesa County. She also consented to testify against Tina Peters, her former supervisor, who is the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder.

In exchange for agreeing to testify against Peters, Brown is the second former worker of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s office to accept a plea deal. Brenda Knisley, a former deputy clerk, also entered into a plea agreement in August. As part of it, she admitted guilt to three misdemeanor offenses and was given 150 hours of community service and two years of unsupervised probation.

As part of her plea agreement, Knisley agreed to provide potential evidence against Peters and Brown. Dan Rubinstein, the district attorney for Mesa County, claims that Knisely’s agreement does not need to be changed because her testimony against Brown is no longer required.

Brown was first charged with two felonies for conspiring to impersonate a public official, a member of the Colorado Secretary of State’s elections division, in order to obtain a benefit and try to influence them. The maximum penalties for the first charge were 18 months in state jail and up to $100,000 in fines, while the maximum penalties for the second charge were six years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.

Some of the accusations leveled against Peters and Knisley and those leveled against Brown are identical. Peters has refuted every accusation made against her, claiming they were made for political reasons. A cooperation agreement between Brown and the district attorney of Mesa County was approved on November 16.

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The arrangement was reached after Brown took part in a taped “proffer interview” on September 28, 2022, with state and federal prosecutors as well as law enforcement. People have the chance to inform the authorities of anything they know about a criminal investigation during a proffer interview.

Brown consented to enter a guilty plea to official misconduct and trying to influence a public servant, both felonies, during a hearing on Wednesday before Judge Matthew Barrett. To give Brown the opportunity to testify against Peters in the jury trial, Barrett postponed sentencing until March 14. The two-year unsupervised, deferred judgment and sentence on the felony count as well as probation on the misdemeanor count may run concurrently under the plea arrangement, which Barrett approved on Wednesday.

Former Mesa County Elections Manager Takes Deal
Former Mesa County Elections Manager Takes Deal

The plea deal also specifies a maximum jail sentence of 30 days. In March, Barrett will decide if there will be any jail time or probation. Brown admitted guilt and informed the judge that the accusations were based on an email she sent to the Secretary of State’s office. She sent the email without realizing Gerald Wood, who was about to be recruited as an administrative assistant, wasn’t actually an employee.

She said to Barrett, “I need to take responsibility for my own actions or lack thereof. “My responsibility was to safeguard the election’s integrity.” She claimed there were four actions she might have taken to improve the situation. She made no further mention of those four phases. She said that there were things going on that she should have questioned but didn’t.

If Brown could present the court with the details he provided during the proffer interview, Rubinstein asked. He claimed that Brown falsely portrayed Wood’s employment with Mesa County as an administrative assistant to the Secretary of State’s office under Peters’ direction. According to Rubinstein, Brown thought Wood would be employed by Peters as a ruse.

According to Rubinstein, Brown emailed the Secretary of State’s office about Wood because he knew that if the office knew who he really was, he would not have been permitted to enter the room during a “trusted build,” when only county employees were permitted to enter the room where the voting equipment was kept.

According to Rubinstein, “she was aware that she was building up a sham to get someone inside the room, knowing that the Secretary of State would never let it happen.” Regarding the allegation of official misconduct, Rubinstein claimed that Brown knew that the agreement with Dominion, the supplier of the election equipment, forbade the duplication of software and that she took part in granting access to Gerald Wood, later identified as Conan James Hayes, to the room housing the Dominion equipment.

Hayes was listed in court documents in Michigan as an expert on “application security, systems, process, generally accepted programming practices, standards of care, as it relates to application development of sensitive systems” in the affidavit for Brown’s arrest. Hayes is a surfer and a former owner of a clothing company. The affidavit of Brown’s arrest from July claims that Knisley sought to get Wood a security badge.

Peters then used it to let Hayes, an unauthorized visitor, inside the space so that he could copy the hard drive of the county’s Dominion election machinery. The affidavit said that Brown participated in the copying process and planned to mislead the identity of the person utilizing the badge. The statement stated that the Dominion hard disc pictures, together with its proprietary software, are already freely accessible online.

The document stated that computer specialists and national platform media outlets “indicate that malicious hackers may examine the software files to attempt to uncover flaws to affect future elections.” Dominion has fought allegations that it participated in a plot to rig election outcomes with numerous lawsuits.

On January 10, Peters’ tenure as clerk and recorder comes to an end. She chose to make an unsuccessful attempt for the Republican nomination for secretary of state rather than run for re-election for a second term. Peters entered a not-guilty plea to ten charges—seven felonies and three misdemeanors—involving interfering with election machinery in the Mesa County elections office in May 2021 in September. The Mesa County District Court has scheduled a jury trial for March 6–14, 2023. That trial will be presided upon by Barrett.

Stay tuned for more updates on Nog Magazine.