DENVER — Two previously unnamed attorneys were in possession of hard drive images of the Elbert County electoral system, one of them being a former Republican minority leader in Colorado, according to court documents released Monday.
The two attorneys were identified in court documents as Joe Stengel, a Denver attorney and former Colorado House Republican Minority Leader, and Ric Morgan, an Elbert County attorney who is also listed on the website of the county as a Veterans Services Officer.
Uncovering the identities of private attorneys is one of the things Secretary of State Jena Griswold called for in election orders she issued after Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder made copies of hard drives from the county’s electoral system last year. Schroeder said he gave a copy to Case and another to an unidentified “private attorney.”
On Monday, Denver7 obtained documents filed in response to an order from Elbert County District Court Judge Gary Kramer, which he issued earlier this month, that required Schroeder to turn over all copies of the footage. of the hard drive he had made and was asking him and his attorney, John Case, to answer questions previously posed to him in the writs earlier this year. Reuters first reported the contents of the unsealed documents.
Griswold filed a lawsuit in February after some of the initial responses to the orders did not fully answer the questions posed to Schroeder. According to a filing, Schroeder had given one of two images of the hard drive he made to an unidentified “private attorney” whom he and Case had refused to identify for months until the judge ordered in Beginning of the month. The other was delivered to Case, according to these documents.
But the newly unsealed documents indicate that the two hard drive images actually ended up in the hands of two unidentified attorneys after Case hired his own attorney, Ric Morgan, and gave him one.
According to the sworn affidavits of Case, Morgan, and Stengel, Schroeder gave one of the copies directly to Morgan, putting the copy in a pocket that he dropped off at Morgan’s office. Morgan said in his affidavit, dated March 4, that he locked it in a secure storage cabinet in his office.
Morgan said he never moved or opened it and at some point took it out of the locked cupboard and returned it to Schroeder “without ever being opened or interfered with in any way.” whether it be”.
Case said in an affidavit dated May 4 that Schroeder gave him a red metal box — the other copy of the hard drive — with a custodial journal taped to the lid on January 22. A yellow plastic seal was still intact and attached to the box latch. Case said in the affidavit that he drove the box home and placed it under his bed.
On January 25, Case hired Stengel as his attorney. That same day, according to Stengel’s affidavit and his own, he drove the box to Stengel’s house, tried to push it under a seat, and gave it to Stengel around 9 a.m.
On May 4, Stengel returned it to Case, but the yellow plastic seal was broken. In his affidavit, Case said he assumed the latch seal must have broken when he tried to slide it under the seat while taking it to Stengel in the first place.
Case swore in the affidavit that he had no personal knowledge of the contents of the metal box and that he had never opened it or attempted to open it. He also said he did not intentionally damage the seal.
Schroeder, the county clerk and recorder, previously said that after creating the initial hard drive image, he kept it locked in the Elbert County election office.
After retrieving the box from Stengel, according to Case, Case put the box in his car, attended a funeral, and then drove to Kiowa to return the box to Schroeder.
In Stengel’s sworn affidavit, dated May 4, he corroborated Case’s statements that Case hired him on January 25 and delivered the red box the same day.
Stengel said he put the box in a fireproof safe. On February 3, according to Stengel, Case told him to remove the box from the safe and take pictures of its exterior. Stengel swore Case asked him to do the same on April 13.
These photographs of the two days have been included as exhibits in this file. All photographs show that the yellow seal was broken on February 3 and April 13.
Stengel swore in his affidavit that the box was never opened while in his possession, and that he returned the box to Case on May 4 in the same condition in which it came to him.
Stengel and Case were previously partners at law, and Stengel served in the Colorado House as a Republican from 2000 to 2006. He became Minority Leader before stepping down in 2006 amid a ethics investigation, the Denver Post reported at the time.
Case, Stengel and Morgan did not respond to requests for comment from Denver7 on Monday or Tuesday.
Details that Schroeder had made images of the hard drives came to light in an affidavit Schroeder signed Jan. 7 as part of a lawsuit that claimed election software used by Colorado counties in 2020 was not properly certified – claims that have still never been substantiated.
In the January affidavit, Schroeder said he “made a forensic picture of everything on the election server” prior to a “trust building” of the county’s election system ahead of the 2021 election.
Two other people not employed by the Clerk and Recorder’s office gave Schroeder instructions over the phone on how to create the hard drive images. They were identified in the filler as Shawn Smith and Mark Cook, although no further information about their connection to Schroeder was released.
In Judge Kramer’s order earlier this month, he wrote that the two election orders issued by Griswold were within his statutory rights as secretary of state and that Schroeder had to comply with both.
“The fact that the Clerk and Recorder does not trust the Secretary of State to perform his official duties does not excuse his duty to comply with his orders,” Judge Kramer wrote.
Schroeder’s case was one of two in Colorado to make national headlines regarding election security and alleged violations of the electoral system. The other involves Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, the Republican who allegedly helped violate the county’s electoral system and leaked hard drive images to far-right websites. Peters was again removed as designated Mesa County election official and faces a grand jury indictment, along with his assistant clerk.
Denver7’s Meghan Lopez contributed to this report.