Judge dismisses Tina Peters lawsuit aimed at stopping federal charges against her

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters arrives for her arraignment on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2022, at Mesa County District Court in Grand Junction on seven felony charges — including attempting to influence a public servant, identity theft, criminal impersonation and conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation — and three misdemeanors.

Updated on 5:03 p.m. on January 8, 2023.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters. The suit, filed last November, sought to stop her upcoming trial for copying hard drives from her county's voting equipment after the 2020 election. The suit alleged that investigations against her were unlawful and violated her rights.

District Court Judge Nina Y. Wang wrote in her ruling: "To warrant federal court intervention, a plaintiff must offer sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the prosecution was substantially motivated by a bad faith motive or was brought to harass. Ms. Peters has not met her burden here."

She also wrote multiple times, "Documents do not even address the factual allegations for which they are cited."

With the suit dismissed, Peters' trial will begin Feb. 7.

Original story below.

Former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters filed a federal lawsuit seeking to ban the government from conducting criminal proceedings against her. 

The suit alleges investigations into her actions as clerk are unlawful and retaliation against her for “exercising her freedom of speech, freedom of association and her right to petition the government for the redress of grievances.”

Much of the complaint centers on the allegations that Peters participated in an illegal scheme to copy the hard drives of her county’s voting equipment months after the 2020 election in order to help outside parties search for voter fraud.

She already faces ten state charges, with the case set to go to trial in February. Prosecutors allege that she helped steal the identity of a local man and broke state rules by sneaking an unauthorized observer into a secure update of the voting system software.

In the lawsuit, Peters said she was well within her right to take the actions she did, and that she was just complying with her legal obligations to preserve election records. 

“Peters lawfully exercised her authority to arrange for a consultant on May 23, 2021, before the upgrade, to make a forensic image of the Mesa County EMS hard drive. A ‘forensic image’ is a bit-by-bit, non-modifiable (read-only) copy of all the digital data stored on a disk drive,” states the complaint. 

Prosecutors allege the man referred to as a consultant was the election conspiracy theorist Conan Hayes, and that he masqueraded under the name and work badge of a local man without his knowledge. Some of the information from the hard drives was later shared online and at an event hosted by Trump supporter and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.  

A judge ruled that because of her actions, Peters should not be allowed to have access to the county’s voting machines before the 2021 and 2022 elections. Peters said the claims against her are unequivocally untrue.

“The making and dissemination of the forensic images violated no statute, administrative regulation, rule, or order in existence at any relevant time,” asserts her complaint.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is one of the defendants named in the lawsuit, along with U.S Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein. In a written statement Griswold called the lawsuit frivolous.

“Tina Peters compromised her own voting equipment in an attempt to prove the Big Lie and risked her constituents’ constitutional right to vote,” said Griswold. “Her attempts to evade accountability with this frivolous lawsuit will not work.”

The ten state counts Peters is facing include felony charges, among them, attempting to influence a public servant, identity theft, criminal impersonation, and conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation. The misdemeanors include first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty, and failure to comply with the requirements of the secretary of state.

At least one of her former colleagues who allegedly participated in the scheme has agreed to provide evidence to investigators.

Peters ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for Secretary of State after deciding not to seek a second term in office as clerk.