Elbert County clerk agrees mystery attorney should be revealed in election security case
Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder told a district court judge that he agrees with the Colorado secretary of state that the name of a mystery attorney at the center of an election security case should be revealed to the public.
In a document filed Wednesday in Elbert County District Court as part of a lawsuit that Secretary Jena Griswold brought against Schroeder, the clerk through his lawyer, John Case, concurred with a motion filed by Griswold asking Judge Gary Kramer to unseal certain material, including the mystery attorney’s name, at the center of the case.
“Mr. Schroeder agrees that Colorado citizens deserve all relevant information about their voting system,” Case wrote.
Griswold, a Democrat, in January opened an investigation into Schroeder’s activities as a potential security breach after learning that Schroeder, with the help of activists who reject the results of the 2020 election, had made full copies, of “forensic images,” of the hard drives of Elbert’s Dominion Voting Systems machines. She deemed the copies “unauthorized,” and in February she sued Schroeder after finding the Republican clerk’s response to her inquiries unsatisfactory.
Schroeder last week complied with a court order that he supply to Griswold material she sought as part of her investigation, including the identity of an unnamed “private attorney” who had possession of one of two external hard drive copies of Elbert County’s election system. Kramer ordered the material suppressed, and it will become open to the public only if the judge accedes to the requests from Griswold, and now Schroeder, that it be unsealed.
Affidavits in the case and language in Schroeder’s latest filing suggest there could be more than one attorney yet to be named in the case.
The attorneys have consented to publication of their affidavits, so there is no longer a reason to withhold information from the public.
“The lawyers to whom the hard drives were entrusted had a duty to preserve the evidence. Their affidavits show that they did,” Case wrote in a response to Griswold’s motion, adding that Schroeder “wanted to protect from harassment the two private attorneys who signed affidavits. The attorneys have consented to publication of their affidavits, so there is no longer a reason to withhold information from the public.”
Three of the suppressed exhibits filed by Schroeder are titled “Case Affidavit,” “Morgan Affidavit” and “Stengel Affidavit.” The affidavits themselves are not available for public viewing, but their titles are.
A spokesperson for Griswold’s office declined to answer questions about the affidavits, including whether the names “Morgan” or “Stengel” correspond to that of a mystery attorney.
Case also declined to answer questions about the affidavits or whether the name “Morgan” or “Stengel” corresponded to the identity of an unnamed attorney. But he characterized as a “mistake” the form of the affidavit titles that ended up in the public-facing court files.
“Those document titles I was surprised to learn were put on the registry of action, and so that’s done. You can’t unring that bell. That’s not how I understood it would be done, but that’s what was done,” Case said. “It’s as much my mistake as theirs.”
There are 24 active lawyers in Colorado with the last name Morgan listed in a Colorado Supreme Court directory. There are three with the last name Stengel. One of them is Joe Stengel, a former Republican Colorado House minority leader.
Asked whether he is the unnamed private attorney, Joe Stengel told a Newsline reporter, “I have no comment.” When asked to characterize in general his involvement in the Schroeder case, he said, “I have no comment.” When asked if there was a time in the future when he could comment about the case, he said, “Well, I can never predict the future.”
Case’s initial response to a reporter’s question about Joe Stengel indicated a relationship between the two attorneys. “I’ll tell you that he’s a great guy and a great lawyer,” Case said about Joe Stengel.
Among the two other active lawyers in the state directory with the last name Stengel, one said she had no connection to the case and the other did not respond to messages by the time of publication.
Schroeder said in court documents that before a state-led election system software update in August 2021 he made the election system copies on external hard drives to preserve records of the 2020 election, which he claimed the update, known as a “trusted build,” erased. Griswold said her investigation was necessary to determine whether Schroeder had violated state election rules.
Other suppressed material that Schroeder was ordered to turn over to Griswold included a chain-of-custody log for each hard drive copy, answers to questions related to Schroeder’s hard drive-copying activities, communication between Schroeder and two people who helped him make the hard drive copies, and the hard drive copies themselves.
In seeking to have the material unsealed, Griswold said in a court document, “The public has a right to know who is participating in the campaign to push discredited conspiracy theories aimed at destabilizing Colorado’s elections.”