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Politics and Government

Meet the Colorado man whose identity was allegedly stolen by Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters

Gerald Wood is speaking publicly for the first time about his connection to Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and the criminal indictment brought against her

Gerald Wood, right, and his wife, Wendi. (Provided photo)
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Gerald Wood thought it was odd when after meeting with Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters he was told to hand over the county ID badge he had just been issued to be a contractor for her office.

It was May 2021 and Wood, a private sector software engineer who goes by “Jerry,” had recently been asked by Peters to go through a background check so that he could do occasional information technology work. Peters, who Wood had met through a group in Mesa County investigating the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, said she needed help with some tasks that the county’s normal IT staff couldn’t handle.

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Given his professional background, which includes work in data security, Wood thought it was “weird” that Peters’ office wanted to keep the ID. That wasn’t a best practice, he thought, planning to make sure Peters knew that if he was ever asked to do a security analysis for her.

Wood, 56, never got another chance to use that badge. Nor did he ever do any work for the Mesa County Clerk’s Office. “I’ve never even seen the election equipment,” he said.

It wasn’t until authorities searched Wood’s Mesa County home in August 2021 that he started to find out what happened to his access badge and how he was at the center of a controversy soon to be the focus of national headlines. Investigators say Peters let another man assume Wood’s identity to attend a sensitive election system software update completed by Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems and the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which called the incident a security breach.

Peters and her deputy, Belinda Knisley, were indicted in the breach, including for allegedly stealing Wood’s identity. 

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“I would like for the attacks to stop”

Wood, who has been caught up in the intense spotlight shining on Peters, has mostly stayed silent since news of the breach broke last summer. But he is now speaking publicly on the case after Peters, who is running to be Colorado’s next secretary of state, alleged that he perjured himself in his testimony before the grand jury that indicted her. 

“I would like for the attacks to stop,” he told The Colorado Sun in an extended interview Thursday. “I did not perjure myself. I am considered a victim in this. I wasn’t there and I wasn’t part of this.”

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Wood and his wife, Wendi, say they have been through a lot because of Peters. Their house has been searched by local law enforcement and the FBI. Gerald was compelled to testify before a grand jury. Their names have appeared in news media stories and some people in their social circle have turned against the couple, calling Gerald “Judas Jerry.”

“We have a strong relationship with God, so we have worked through a lot of those (anger) emotions already,” said Wendi Wood, who is a pastor. “But there are days we struggle.”

She thinks Peters, whose Navy Seal son died in 2017 when his parachute failed to open at a public demonstration, “is a wounded person” who is acting out and scared. 

“I think her heart was probably in the right place originally,” Wendi Wood said. “But I think that her execution was so poor. She could have done all of this lawfully and she did not choose that.”

Peters, who believes the unfounded claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump and has made that claim central to her secretary of state bid, is charged with criminal impersonation, a felony, and identity theft for allegedly using Wood’s county ID to get an unauthorized person into the election system software update. 

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters during the GOP assembly at the Broadmoor World Arena on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Colorado Springs. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Photos of passwords used during the update were posted online, as was a copy of the county’s election system. Authorities have not said who the man is who allegedly used Wood’s identity.

Peters, meanwhile, denies that she stole anyone’s identity. “If someone is saying that to the grand jury, they’re going to be guilty of perjury,” she told The Sun in an interview with The Unaffiliated politics newsletter earlier this month.

Peters has maintained her innocence —  “everything I’ve ever done has been truthful” — and claims, without evidence, that the charges against her are part of a major conspiracy tied to the highest levels of the federal government.

“I do not believe they will ever, ever allow this to go to trial,” Peters said, “because they know I know where the bodies are buried.” 

She said she would never plead guilty in the case and that “there will never be a conviction.”

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Giving Peters the benefits of the doubt

Wood was in South Dakota in August 2021 for the cyber symposium hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the nation’s loudest election conspiracy theorists, when he learned that authorities were investigating him. He found out about the probe when investigators arrived at his home to search it and seized electronic devices.

Wood had not spoken to Peters or Knisley after turning in his access badge and when investigators searched his home. He simply thought they had decided not to hire him or that they didn’t need help. Then, suddenly, he received a middle-of-the-night phone call from his wife alerting him to the criminal investigation.

“There were so many things being said,” Gerald Wood said. “My name (was) all over the news and things that were completely wild and untrue. I was still trying to figure out what was true and what was not.”

Wendi Wood said she and her husband, who are both Republicans, “always wanted to give (Peters) the benefit of the doubt.”

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But slowly the Woods came to realize that the situation couldn’t be explained away. Everything really “cemented” for Gerald when he was called before the grand jury to testify.

“We realized that, ‘OK, they must have solid evidence at this point,’” he said. 

Gerald Wood says he never did any work for the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office and he never touched, let alone saw, Mesa County’s election equipment. He says he provided alibis — a church gathering and a family graduation party — for the dates during which alleged illegal activity occurred at the office. 

Authorities have indicated that Wood is no longer under investigation.

Gerald and Wendi say they still have concerns about the 2020 presidential election and the U.S. election system in general.

(Trump’s own allies, including former Attorney General Bill Barr and his daughter, Ivanka, have rejected claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Additionally, courts have tossed out malfeasance claims by Trump and his supporters.)

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“I wouldn’t say that we’re making, you know, any absolute claims that (the 2020 presidential election) was stolen,” Gerald said. “But I’m very concerned that our elections are not run very well.”

As for the Republican primary for secretary of state in Colorado, Gerald and Wendi don’t plan to vote for Peters. They are backing Mike O’Donnell, a nonprofit executive from the Eastern Plains who has no election administration experience. O’Donnell says Democrat Joe Biden won in 2020, but has vowed to try to make changes to Colorado’s election system, including by taking a look at the state’s voter rolls.

Pam Anderson, a former Jefferson County clerk, is also running for the Republican nomination for secretary of state.

The primary election is June 28.


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