On Thursday morning, Tina Peters, the embattled clerk pushing Donald Trump’s false election claims, turned herself in to police and walked free on a $500 bond. By Thursday evening, she was onstage at a far-right event where another speaker had just endorsed hangings for people involved in “election fraud.”
Peters, a clerk from Mesa County, Colorado, has become a microcelebrity in far-right circles after the solidly red district in which she works became the focus of an election-fraud panic last summer when its voter data leaked to conservative conspiracy theorists like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. She is now the subject of an ongoing investigation into the data breach. However, that has not stopped her from hitting the public speaking circuit while she and her colleagues face charges in a spiraling criminal case.
Peters’ Thursday night speech, first reported by Colorado Newsline’s Chase Woodruff, took place at an event hosted by FEC United, a far-right group whose president has called for mass executions of politicians he believes to be “traitors.” The Thursday event continued in similar vein, with a speaker who accused Colorado’s Democratic secretary of state, Jena Griswold, of election fraud. “I think if you’re involved in election fraud, then you deserve to hang,” he told the crowd to applause.
Peters delivered a speech soon thereafter, referencing her arrest that morning on charges of obstructing a police officer and obstructing government operations.
“I’m still dressed in what they booked me in this morning,” Peters began. “How many of you know that I actually had to turn myself in to be fingerprinted and mugshot today?”
Peters did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
In fringe circles, Peters is touted as a persecuted hero at war with Griswold. In reality, Peters’ Thursday morning arrest stems from a bagel restaurant incident and a cascading legal fiasco in the Mesa County Clerk’s office.
Peters’ troubles predate the 2020 presidential election. Beginning in 2019, her first year as clerk, Peters’ office came under scrutiny for election slip-ups, like leaving nearly 600 ballots uncounted in an outdoor box for months, and for staffing issues, like the departure of most of her employees.
But her path to the national stage began on May 25, 2021. That’s when someone in the clerk’s office is accused of turning off security cameras that monitored the county’s voting equipment. During the blackout, someone using the name “Gerard Wood” accessed the machines and copied voter data, which was soon leaked to conspiracy theorist (and current longshot congressional candidate) Ron Watkins. Although the stolen data showed no election malfeasance, Peters branded herself a whistleblower of local election fraud. She rode Lindell’s private jet to his “Cyber Symposium” on election conspiracy theories in August, where she gave a speech about supposed discrepancies in Mesa County data. Peters, who had also used taxpayer money to buy a plane ticket to the event, soon went into hiding in Lindell’s “safe house,” finally emerging this fall.
During Peters’ absence, her deputy clerk Belinda Knisley was charged with second-degree burglary and cyber crime, “in relation to possible harassment of employees in her office that relate to ongoing investigations into other possible state and federal criminal matters,” the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported at the time. Knisley is accused of using Peters’ office computer and login to access and print county documents this summer. Knisley was not allowed in the office at the time, because she had been placed on suspension following multiple accusations of inappropriate workplace behavior. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
By the time she returned from hiding this fall, Peters was facing an investigation by Griswold’s office, which accused her and Knisley of allowing “Gerard Wood” to access and copy Mesa County voter data in May. Griswold’s office also accused another Peters staffer of abetting the breach: a charge Peters’ legal team has denied. The staffer was fired by county officials in November.
But it was a recent court hearing for Knisley that sparked Peters’ latest legal woes. Peters is accused of using an iPad to record Knisley’s hearing on Monday, despite a judge’s warning and courtroom signs announcing that recordings were prohibited. When questioned during the hearing, Peters denied that she’d been recording court proceedings. According to an arrest affidavit, police served a search warrant on the iPad on Tuesday.
They found Peters at a Grand Junction bagel shop, where she allegedly resisted the search. Footage appeared to show Peters lashing out at officers. “Do not kick,” one officer shouted as Peters swung what appeared to be a brown suede boot in his direction.
The incident resulted in a charge of obstructing a peace officer, in addition to her previous charge of obstructing a government proceeding (by allegedly recording the court hearing).
Peters turned herself in to police on Thursday morning, paid a $500 bond, and turned her story into a tale of martyrdom at her speech that evening, where she received a standing ovation.