Stuff is about to get real for Mesa County’s flamboyantly lawless clerk Tina Peters.
The far-right election-conspiracy darling is to be arraigned Wednesday on 11 criminal charges, including attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, identity theft, first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty and failing to comply with the secretary of state.
And prosecutors are just getting started.
Federal charges are likely, too, once the FBI completes its investigation into her reckless election tampering antics.
Peters also faces accusations of alleged ethics law violations involving — among other things — her fundraising scheme to pay for her legal defense.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has bragged that he contributed as much as $800,000 to pay for Peters’ defense, apparently in violation of Colorado laws prohibiting elected officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $65. In an effort to keep the money flowing despite the Colorado law, Peters directed donors to an account established outside the state.
The woman has absolutely no shame.
She also appears to have absolutely no defense.
Last month, prosecutors flipped the ultimate insider, her deputy Belinda Knisley.
The former deputy clerk agreed to cooperate with Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein in the Peters case in exchange for his office dropping serious charges against her.
Saying her role was “all directed by somebody else,” Knisley reportedly told prosecutors how she helped election conspiracy goons copy the hard drives of Mesa County voting machines and participate in what was described as a software update to ensure the security of the systems.
She pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors and agreed to tell all to avoid a jail sentence. She was sentenced to 150 hours of community service and two years of probation.
Judge Matthew Barrett, who reluctantly accepted the plea agreement, told Knisley: “You abdicated your role as a clerk; you violated your oath; and you betrayed your duty.”
Rubenstein has said he will push for an early trial date for Peters at this week’s arraignment, to which I can only say, oh goody.
Every chapter of the Tina Peters saga has been as wildly entertaining as it has been deeply disturbing.
Soon after the alleged scheme to breach the voting systems came to light, Peters set off on a celebrity speaking tour, appearing at gatherings of wild-eyed conspiracy cultists across the country.
Then after the grand jury was empaneled to investigate charges of election tampering, Peters had a hissy fit in a Grand Junction bagel shop when sheriff’s deputies attempted to act on a warrant to search her computer files. She was caught on video struggling against officers and kicking a cop in his, well, taser.
Even when she was in handcuffs in the back of a police car, she still was reportedly babbling about the Big Lie.
Then when she lost her bid for the Republican nomination for secretary of state, she followed the losing Trump strategy, saying the election was rigged and demanding a recount, even spending $250,000 of her supporters’ money to pay for it.
In the end, like her role model, she was still a loser.
The sideshow continues. But with any luck, not for long.
While the national spotlight shines brightly on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn the election in Georgia, the tawdry Tina Peters case stands as a critical test of the laws designed to protect our democracy.
It’s important to act quickly to prosecute these crimes. And it’s even more important to reveal Peters and her ilk for what they really are: liars and cheats.
The blizzard of falsehoods from her and her whole gang of election conspiracy nincompoops is no joke. It’s a coordinated, cynical ploy to undermine confidence in elections, law enforcement and the court system.
For Peters and Trump and so many others, the legal strategy is to delay, delay, delay in the hope that an exhausted public simply loses interest, gives up on the political process, and pays no attention to the inevitable trials and their outcomes.
We can’t let that happen.
The midterm elections are only two months away. The presidential election is only 26 months away.
Voter confidence is crucial and what happens in Mesa County matters to every American.
So far, the system appears to be working. Belinda Knisley is ready to sing.
Now it’s time for Tina Peters to face the music.
Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.
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