A Pueblo District Court judge has dismissed charges against a man who allegedly tampered with county election equipment last year.
Richard Patton, 31, became the first person charged with a class 5 felony under Colorado’s recently beefed-up election security law, which increased penalties for knowingly breaking into voting equipment. The Secretary of State’s office confirmed the case’s dismissal took place following a Dec. 15 hearing.
Court minutes show the reason for the dismissal was related to Patton’s declaration of incompetence, the Pueblo Chieftain reported. A judge ruled Patton was mentally incompetent to continue court proceedings in Dec. 2022.
Patton completed medication treatment for nearly a year, but his competency remained “not restorable in the foreseeable future,” according to court records.
"Given that this is a pre-disposition decision, the court indicated it did not believe it has the legal authority to require Mr. Patton to take medication, even if that would help restore him to competency," Jeff Chostner, 10th Judicial District Attorney, told the Chieftain.
According to his arrest affidavit, Patton, a registered Democrat, showed up to vote in person in Pueblo on June 28, 2022, the last day of the primary election.
After Patton voted, a person who went to clean the voting machine discovered an error message saying that a USB device had been plugged in, according to the affidavit. Other election workers said the security seal on the machine was either damaged or had been tampered with.
Following his arrest, Patton denied any wrongdoing in an interview with the Chieftain in November 2022, claiming he was disabled.
Pueblo police and the county clerk’s office said in statements in 2022 that the incident did not impact election results or overall system security. Sec. of State Jena Griswold appointed an independent monitor to oversee Pueblo County’s elections due to unrelated misprints on mail-in ballots.
Patton’s case is set for a final review on Dec. 22.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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