In a major development in the case against indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, former Deputy County Clerk Belinda Knisley reached a plea deal in which she flipped on Peters, plead guilty to reduced charges and agreed to testify against Peters in court, according to reports today in the Daily Sentinel, the Colorado Sun, Colorado Public Radio, Denver 9News and other news outlets.
Felony charges dropped, no prison time
Knisely had faced three counts of attempting to influence a public servant (class 4 felonies), one count of conspiracy to attempt to influence a public servant (a class 5 felony), and two misdemeanor charges of violation of duty and failing to comply with the Secretary of State. Before the deal, Knisley faced up to 21 years in prison and $2 million in fines.
Under the deal, the felony charges are dropped, Knisley pleads guilty to three misdemeanor charges of trespassing and one charge each of official misconduct and violation of duty. In return, she gets two years unsupervised probation, 150 hours of community service and will be permanently barred from working in elections.
In exchange for leniency, Knisley agreed to testify fully and truthfully against Tina Peters, former Mesa County Elections Manager Sandra Brown and any others who may end up being charged in the conspiracy to tamper with Mesa County’s election equipment.
And there may be others.
Sherronna Bishop, Lauren Boebert, Bobbie Daniel?
Knisley’s plea deal likely means trouble for others who were aware of or involved in the conspiracy, a list that could potentially include right wing activist Sherronna Bishop, former pro surfer-turned-professional-election denier Conan Hayes, and even Republicans House Rep. Lauren Boebert and Bobbie Daniel, who is currently a candidate for Mesa County Commissioner.
Peters told an audience in Las Vegas July 12 that she attended a dinner with Sherronna and Conan Hayes when he was in Grand Junction to copy the hard drives, listing others who were also at the dinner, including a “county commissioner candidate” (who could only have been Bobbie Daniel) and Lauren Boebert.
The signed plea bargain (pdf) states,
“Defendant explained that beginning in April, 2021 and into May, 2021 she was aware of and participated in a scheme with Tina Peters and other identified people, to deceive public servants from both the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office and Mesa County. This scheme, which was significantly directed by Tina Peters, ultimately permitted an unauthorized individual to gain access to secure areas inside the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office so that this person (fraudulently held out to be…Gerald Wood, but who was later identified to actually be Conan Hayes) could participate in Mesa County’s Trusted Build with Tina Peters and Sandra Brown.” [Italicized emphasis added.]
“Ms. Knisley discussed other individuals who may have various levels of criminal responsibility for the planning, preparation and/or execution of this scheme.”
“Ms. Knisley further acknowledged that Tina Peters recorded proceedings during a hearing for Ms. Knisley’s burglary case, at the request of Ms. Knisley, and then lied to the judge about doing so, including acknowledging to Ms. Knisley that she lied.”
In a press release issued after this news was released, Peters said:
“For two years the government, the media, and the organized left have made Tina Peters’s and her supporters’ lives a living hell, bringing them to the brink of financial ruin, denying them employment, arresting them, having federal agents kicking in their doors, assault their families – at a certain point against that kind of pressure most people will give in to have their lives back. We hold no ill will towards Chief Deputy Knisley, but Tina Peters will not back down and the truth will come out.The level of intimidation we’ve witnessed in the last two years mimics third world dictatorships – not the United States.”