Former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters avoided a jail sentence Monday, after being found guilty last month on a charge of obstructing government operations in a case that stemmed from her allegedly violating court rules by recording a criminal hearing.
Mesa County District Court Judge Bruce Raaum sentenced Peters to four months of home detention with electronic monitoring, the maximum fine of $750 and 120 hours of community service.
But that sentence is stayed pending an appeal, which Peters’ attorney said they would file immediately.
District Attorney Dan Rubinstein had asked for jail time.
“Mrs. Peters, through what happened in this case, has made the community a joke,” Rubinstein said in his arguments for a tougher sentence.
The prosecution pointed to videos of Peters telling supporters that she would most likely get a fine for the charge and that she considered it a badge of honor.
This case is separate, but not entirely unrelated to, Peters’ legal troubles for allegedly helping someone breach the security of her office’s election equipment and lying about their identity to state officials. She’s been charged with seven felony charges and three misdemeanors in that case, with the trial slated to begin later this year.
Monday’s sentencing stemmed from an incident in February 2022, when Peters was caught recording court proceedings involving her former Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisely. Knisley was accused of burglary and cyber crimes for returning to the clerk’s office after being ordered to stay away while the election security case was investigated.
A paralegal noticed that Peters’ appeared to be video recording the hearing on her iPad, in violation of courtroom rules. When asked about it by the judge, Peters denied she’d been recording.
Shortly afterward, investigators from the District Attorney’s office attempted to seize Peters’ iPad to look for evidence of a recording. Peters, who was at a Grand Junction bagel shop at the time, allegedly refused to turn over the device and resisted police officers. The interaction was recorded by other patrons in the restaurant.
In a split decision, while convicting Peters on obstructing government relations, a jury acquitted Peters of the charge of obstructing a police officer.
Peters’ attorney, Harvey Steinberg, said the prosecution’s call for jail time was unwarranted given the classification of the crime, a misdemeanor, and Peters’ lack of criminal history.
“I say to myself, she is akin to — and I hate to use these terms and I don’t mean to offend anyone — a political prisoner,” Steinberg said, adding later that “but for her political views, she wouldn’t be sitting here.”
In his sentencing, Judge Raaum noted a lack of respect for the criminal justice system shown by Peters, but said he would not pursue a jail sentence.
“This is not a badge of honor,” Raaum said. “You’re not walking on a bridge in Selma.”
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