Mesa County says it has the backup files claimed to be lost

Approximately 250 people attended a Dec. 1 rally outside the Mesa County Old Courthouse to show support for Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and Garfield County resident Sherronna Bishop.

The gathering occurred after having been mentioned as a concern in a local newspaper report that morning regarding Mesa County “beefing up its security” due to threats of violence from voter-fraud conspiracy theorists with the group U.S. Election Integrity Plan. One such threat cited by county officials came from group member Shawn Smith, who spoke at the event.

Mesa Clerk Tina Peters & Sherronna Bishop. Photo by Sharon Sullivan

Both Peters and Bishop have continued to claim without evidence that voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election, and are under investigation for breaches of election security protocols. As part of that investigation, the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, along with the FBI, conducted a search warrant at the homes of the two women, on November 16. 

Bishop described the search of her home as “brute force, terrifying tactics.”

“District Attorney Dan Rubinstein – you owe me a door,” she told the crowd of supporters while standing on the steps of the courthouse. 

When asked to comment, Rubinstein’s office responded in an email, stating “The FBI conducted federally-authorized law enforcement actions in a different jurisdiction from mine. I do not work for the FBI, and the FBI does not work for me. It is unclear to me why Ms. Bishop will look to me to replace her door.”

Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office denied that force was used when they conducted the searches at the two properties.

“We dispute how some have characterized the law enforcement action, said Lawrence Pacheco, the attorney general’s director of communications. “The searches carried out last month in Garfield and Mesa counties were executed in a professional and lawful manner.”

Still, Bishop’s comment rattled at least one woman who was attending the rally. Jean Canterbury, of Custer County, said she met Bishop a year or so ago.

“I’m just shocked that a mom would have her door broken in by the FBI for any reason,” Canterbury said. “When they break down the door of someone you know, they can break down yours. I’ve never been so frightened in my life.” 

Sheronna Bishop (right) and USEIP conspiracist Shawn Smith speak with a rally attendee, as Colorado GOP gubernatorial hopeful Greg Lopez looks on.
Photo by Sharon Sullivan

In addition to Peters and Bishop, several of their supporters spoke to the crowd gathered on the south lawn of the courthouse. State Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Canon City); Todd Watkins, formerly with U.S. Border Control; Shawn Smith, with U.S. Election Integrity Plan; and Richard Harris, of the Truth & Liberty Coalition, were among those who addressed the crowd from the courthouse steps.

Hanks, who is running to unseat U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, called President Biden an “unelected installed agent of a foreign power.”

Via email, Colorado Democratic Party spokesperson Nico Delgado offered this statement in response, “Insurrectionist and leading Republican Senate candidate Ron Hanks is using this election conspiracy rally to prop up his campaign that’s rooted in the Big Lie. While Hanks is doing everything he can to win a coveted endorsement from Donald Trump, Senator Michael Bennet is fighting for Coloradans by working to lower costs for families, fix our roads and bridges, and create good-paying jobs.”

Some tried to downplay the Daily Sentinel’s report about possible brewing violence. Although a man with a nametag identifying him as Dave Winney, a candidate for Secretary of State openly wore a gun at his side. Another man, who declined to give his name, told a reporter that “everyone” at the event was armed – though that wasn’t apparent.

Peters, Harris, and Smith – of U.S. Election Integrity Plan – repeatedly accused Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office of destroying Mesa County’s election records. Smith claimed 29,000 election records were destroyed during the trusted build (a computer system update) process in the spring of 2020.

However, Mesa County Treasurer and former county clerk and recorder Sheila Reiner said a backup of the files was completed. During standard computer upgrades county clerks are instructed to back up their election databases, she said. 

“That should have been done,” during the upgrade, Reiner said. “We do know it was done after the general election.”

If Peters did the backup as instructed, she took the information with her, Reiner said, adding that Peters also copied the hard drive, which she then allegedly gave to an unauthorized person named Gerald Wood, who is also under investigation.

Mesa Clerk Tina Peters. Photo by Sharon Sullivan

“They are saying 29,000 records were wiped out; I’m saying we have a good copy of backup that was done last year,” Reiner said. “We still have all the paper and electronic records to verify the 2020 election.”

Debbie Perry Smith, of Littleton was leading one of the many prayers during the event, when she interjected that contrails from overhead aircraft were leaving marks on “us all day long,” referencing the long-debunked “chemtrails” conspiracy theory

Cory Anderson, a member of Stand For The Constitution, responded to a recently published photo of himself flashing the “three percenter symbol” – a hand sign of the Three Percenters militia movement. Anderson told the crowd that the term harkens back to the American Revolutionary War where “less than 3% rose up” to fight for independence. 

“They’re not going to take our weapons,” Anderson said, before adding, “I’m not part of a militia on the Western Slope.”

Peters became emotional – as did Bishop – at times when talking about her supporters and how she loves them. Then, Peters, an avowed Trump supporter, mentioned how U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, and others, “will do everything he can do to suppress the truth and take our voice.”

Nova Tucker, who also helped USEIP canvass Mesa County voters, was one of the supporters selling “Truth and Justice” T-shirts at the rally to raise money for Peters’ legal defense fund. By the end of the two-hour event 49 T-shirts at $20 each had been sold.