Mesa County’s deputy county clerk will testify against her boss Tina Peters, who is accused of tampering with election equipment and misconduct, under a plea deal approved Thursday by a district court judge.
In all, Peters, a Republican, faces 10 criminal charges. She is accused of three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, two counts of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation and identity theft, all of which are felonies. She is also accused of first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty and failing to comply with the secretary of state, all misdemeanors.
Deputy Mesa County Clerk Belinda Knisley agreed to testify against Peters in exchange for staying out of jail or prison. She pleaded guilty to trespassing, official misconduct and violation of duty charges, all misdemeanors, for which she’ll spend two years on unsupervised probation.
District Court Judge Matthew Barrett accepted the deal early Thursday afternoon, though with some hesitancy about the lack of jail time for Knisley.
“My hands will not be so tied if you find yourself before me again,” Barrett said.
In interviews last spring, Knisley told investigators that “she was aware of and participating in a scheme with Tina Peters and other identified people, to deceive public servants from both the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office and Mesa County,” the plea deal reads.
Peters “significantly directed” the scheme, which allowed an unauthorized man into secure areas inside the clerk and recorder’s office, according to the plea deal, first reported by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
Additional details about Knisley’s plea deal were not immediately available.
Peters is still the Mesa County clerk and recorder, though she is prohibited from contacting employees in her office. She turned herself in to law enforcement in late July after narrowly avoiding arrest a week earlier — both times for reportedly disobeying court orders — and she’s currently out on bail.
Peters also sought the Republican nomination for Colorado secretary of state this summer, coming in a distant second place in the primary election. She forced a recount, with the help of a national fundraising effort, which confirmed the earlier results.