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Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold gives a victory speech, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Art Hotel in Denver. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

A Denver jury Wednesday convicted a 52-year-old man of retaliating against an elected official for threatening Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold in a phone call to the Democrat’s office.

Kirk Wertz told Colorado State Patrol troopers investigating the threat that he called the Elections Division of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on June 30, two days after the 2022 primary, and told a worker to “tell the secretary that the angel of death is coming for her in the name of Jesus Christ.” 

District Court Judge Darryl Shockley will sentence Wertz on Monday. Retaliation against an elected official is a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a fine of $100,000. Wertz has been held in the Denver Downtown Detention Center since July 6 on a $2,000 bond, jail records show. At one point, a mental health stay was instituted in the case and later lifted, court records indicate.

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Authorities traced the cellphone from which the call came and saw that it was moving from Kansas toward Colorado. The threat prompted the Colorado State Patrol to provide Griswold with round-the-clock protection.

“It made me feel like a sitting duck,” Griswold testified in court Tuesday. “All I knew is that someone said they were going to come kill me and started driving toward this state.”

Troopers eventually tracked Wertz to a Jefferson County convenience store. There, Wertz told the troopers his call was protected by his First Amendment right to free speech. “I have a right to call,” he said, “and disagree and give her a piece of mind.”

Public defenders and the prosecutor trying the case refused to say where Wertz is from, though voting records from 2022 list his address as Littleton.

Wertz’s conviction marks the second time a man has been found guilty of charges after threatening Griswold. 

In October 2022, a Nebraska man was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from threats he made against Griswold on social media. That was among the first cases pursued by federal authorities as they tried to protect election officials and workers across the country from a rise in threats stoked by former President Donald Trump’s false and baseless claims that he won the 2020 election.

Wertz was tried under a state law passed in 2021 that made it a crime to threaten elected officials.

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Griswold told jurors that she received few threatening messages before the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. She said that event “changed the atmosphere for election workers and secretaries of state.”

“The onslaught of threats toward me happened in the summer of 2021,” Griswold said. 

At the time, she had enacted a rule prohibiting third-party audits of election results or equipment. The prohibition was aimed at preventing rogue actors from following through with demands for audits from Trump supporters.

“Congresswoman Lauren Boebert tweeted out falsely that I was stopping all audits,” Griswold said. “That was retweeted by (U.S. Sen.) Ted Cruz and the threats started to come in. It was really scary. I was receiving 10 threats a day.”


Griswold has been outspoken against election deniers, often posting to social media and speaking out on cable TV news shows about the safety and security of Colorado’s elections. She is chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, a political organization.

This isn’t the first time the 2021 law has been used in Colorado courts.

A Colorado man accused of making numerous calls to U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette, and his staff in January pleaded guilty to threatening an elected official. A Denver man was also arrested last week for threatening Neguse over the congressman’s support for gun control.

Correction: This story was updated at 8:10 a.m. April 13 to correct the date the conviction occurred.

Sandra Fish

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette