(PUEBLO, Colo.) — On Wednesday, Nov. 9, a judge ordered a mental health evaluation for a man accused of tampering with a Pueblo voter machine during the 2022 Primary Elections, according to the Associated Press (AP).
31-year-old Richard Patton was arrested on Nov. 3, for allegedly inserting a USB thumb drive into a voting machine at a polling station in June. He is being investigated for tampering with voting equipment, a felony, and cybercrime-unauthorized access, a misdemeanor, according to the Pueblo Police Department’s (PPD) High Tech Crime Unit.
Patton’s public defender, Jonah Wexler, requested the evaluation to determine whether Patton is mentally competent to continue with legal proceedings. Wexler did not disclose the reasoning behind the request during Patton’s Pueblo court hearing, per the AP. Judge William Alexander ordered the evaluation by state experts stating he did not have enough information to determine if Patton was competent. Alexander explained Patton would be issued an arrest warrant if he did not show up for the appointment, stated the AP.
On the last day of primary voting on June 28, poll workers heard noises coming from a voting booth, according to the office of Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold. A poll worker went to investigate and clean the machine when they saw an error message on the poll machine, per the AP. Tamper-evident seals on the machine appeared to be disturbed, reported the AP.
The AP cited an interview with Patton where he claimed he did not know there was any problem until SWAT officers entered his apartment accusing him of being a “computer hacker.”
The Secretary of State’s Office said Patton’s arrest was the first under a new law broadening the definition of tampering with election equipment and making it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.