DENVER – Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters was booked into jail after a Mesa County judge issued a warrant for her arrest Thursday afternoon for violating a protection order and her bond conditions by contacting the designated election official in Mesa County this week.
A Mesa County judge signed the arrest warrant at 12:47 p.m. Thursday, and she was booked into the Pitkin County Jail at 9:22 p.m. and released about an hour later.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel first reported news of the warrant Thursday.
According to an affidavit in support of a warrant for Peters’ arrest, Peters sent Brandi Bantz, who is the appointed Mesa County Designated Election Official, an email at 2:44 a.m. on Wednesday about her recount request that had been denied by the Secretary of State’s Office.
A protection order in Peters’ felony case bars her from contacting any employees of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, where Bantz is the director of elections.
The affidavit says the email from Peters, which was also sent to other counties, said, “I am, as a candidate with standing, going forward with that request in selected counties,” which cannot be done according to state statute and elections rules.
“If you have not already been notified, and if you are on the list of those counties for a hand recount, you will be notified to coordinate the day/time that is mutually agreed upon,” Peters added in the email, according to the affidavit.
Bantz in turn contacted Fruita police, as well as Mesa County District Attorney’s Office Chief Investigator James Cannon, who has led the investigation into the Mesa County election systems breaches for which Peters and two of her current or former employees have been either indicted or criminally charged.
Peters, 66, narrowly avoided being arrested for violating her bond conditions last week, when Mesa County District Court Judge Matthew David Barrett agreed to quash a warrant for her arrest after admonishing her and her attorneys in a hearing last Friday.
Peters had left the state without the court’s permission in order to attend and speak at a right-wing sheriffs convention. Judge Barrett called it “unfathomable” how none of her attorneys had seen his order saying she could not travel, and he told her and her attorney Harvey Steinberg that if she left the state again without permission she would be going back to jail.
Peters sent the email to certain county clerks early Wednesday, according to the affidavit, after she failed to pay the estimated $236,279 last Friday that was needed for a statewide recount in the Republican Secretary of State primary that she lost to Pam Anderson by 14 percentage points.
Instead, she sent a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office laden with falsehoods, objecting to the manner in which state statute and elections rules require recounts to be done.
Judd Choate, the director of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Elections Division, sent her a letter Tuesday — before she sent the letter to Bantz and others — offering a second chance to pay the full estimated cost if she wants a recount that is conducted “in the same manner as the original ballot count,” as statute requires. Her campaign has nowhere near the funds necessary to pay for such a recount.
“Unequivocally, these allegations are false,” the Secretary of State’s Office said in a statement Wednesday regarding her letter to the office. “The Republican Senate and Secretary of State primary race were each audited, and the results were confirmed as accurate by bipartisan election judges.”
The Colorado County Clerks Association also discussed the emails Peters had sent about the hand recount requests sent to the various counties.
“Clearly, Peters’ request is part of a larger effort to create chaos, disrupt, and cause doubt in our elections. Voters already sent a resounding message to these people by ensuring that election deniers on the ballot across the state were rejected,” CCCA Executive Director Matt Crane said in a statement Wednesday. “This seems like just another stunt to try and seem legitimate. At this point, rather than trying to continue to deceive Colorado citizens with her election lies and lack of knowledge, we encourage Tina to let the true election professionals in Colorado continue to do the work that voters elected them to do, which is run accessible, secure, and transparent elections for Colorado citizens.”
The protection order and bond condition violations are both misdemeanors. Peters was out on a $25,000 surety bond following her indictment in March on 10 counts tied to last year’s Mesa County election systems security breach.
Her latest arrest warrant carries a $1,000 cash bond. It was not immediately clear what bond amount she posted or if the district attorney's office will seek to revoke her bond in her felony case.
A Secretary of State’s Office spokesperson said in an email Thursday evening that the email does not violate election rules, but said Peters "does not have the authority to tell counties to begin a recount."
This is a developing news story that will be updated.