MESA COUNTY, Colo. — Mesa County Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley pleaded guilty during a hearing Thursday afternoon and was immediately sentenced to two years of probation under a deal that calls for her to testify against her co-defendants, who include Tina Peters.
Knisley formally entered guilty pleas to a trespassing charge, as well as charges of official misconduct and violation of duty, all of which are misdemeanors. The remaining counts against her were dismissed.
She admitted her roles during the hearing but maintained she was "directed" by Peters to do what she did.
That caused Judge Matthew Barrett to question whether Knisley was really taking responsibility for actions and gave him reservations about the deal which called for no incarceration. He made it clear he felt her crimes warranted time behind bars, but ultimately he accepted the deal, but warned Knisely that should she ever come before him in court again he wouldn't be as lenient.
>The video above is from March when both Peters and Knisley were indicted.
Peters and Knisley were both indicted in March on multiple counts related to the investigation into election equipment tampering and official misconduct. Peters was indicted on 10 counts and Knisley on six. Both were under investigation related to their involvement in a 2021 data security breach with the county's election equipment, according to the indictment.
Peters and Knisley "devised and executed a deceptive scheme which was designed to influence public servants, breach security protocols, exceed permissible access to voting equipment, and set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people," according to the indictment.
Read the full plea agreement is below.
If at any point Knisley refuses to cooperate or does not comply with the agreement, the guilty pleas and sentences would be vacated and she would be subject to prosecution on all original charges.
In July, former Elections Manager Sandra Brown turned herself into the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) on felony charges of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation and attempting to influence a public servant.
According to Brown's warrant, she was involved in a plot that allowed an unauthorized person to gain access to the "trusted build" – which is part of the process of verifying software for the county's voting system – in May 2021, where copies of election hardware were made.
Under the agreement, Knisley will also testify against Brown and others who she named during a June interview with prosecutors. Knisley can also never work in an elections role again, under the agreement.
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