Sandra Brown, left, and husband Stacy Brown attend a rally in support of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters. Sandra Brown was the back office elections manager for Mesa County. The rally took place outside the clerk and recorder’s office on Spruce Street in Grand Junction on Aug. 21, 2021. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)
A former deputy to indicted Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony and misdemeanor charge and agreed to testify against Peters in her upcoming election security trial.
Sandra Brown, the county’s former elections manager, pleaded guilty to the felony count of attempting to influence a public servant and the misdemeanor count of official misconduct.
“All of this stems back to an email I sent to the Secretary of State’s office. At the time I sent the email, I did not know that the person I was referring to as an employee was not an employee. But I found out later and I did not bring it forward. I need to take responsibility for my actions or lack thereof,” Brown said during her plea hearing Wednesday afternoon.
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Brown misrepresented to the Secretary of State’s office who would be attending a sensitive election software update in May 2021, according to Brown’s arrest warrant. Brown indicated that a man named Gerald Wood would be present at the update, but authorities allege the plan was for him to never attend, but instead have someone else assume his identity.
Investigators allege that Peters presented Conan Hayes, an election conspiracy theorist, as Wood during the software update. Afterwards, images of passwords from the update and a copy of Mesa County’s election system hard drive were posted online.
“My job was to protect the integrity of the elections. There were steps that I could have taken that would have done that in a better (way). There were things going on that I should have questioned, and I didn’t,” Brown said.
Under the plea deal, prosecutors asked for a maximum of 30 days in jail for Brown. It calls for two years of unsupervised deferred judgment, which means she will not be subject to additional penalties as long as she doesn’t break any more laws in that period.
Brown will be sentenced immediately after she testifies against Peters in court in March.
Mesa County Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley also pleaded guilty in August to charges related to the security breach and agreed to testify against Peters.
The jury trial for Peters is set for late January 2023.
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