Sooner Tea Party co-founder in Oklahoma calls blackmail charge against him 'political persecution'

Al Gerhart, of Oklahoma City, faces a felony blackmail charge stemming from an email he sent to Oklahoma state Sen. Cliff Branan. Gerhart turned himself in over the weekend at Midwest City jail after returning from an overseas trip.
by Nolan Clay Published: April 16, 2013

The co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party on Monday called the blackmail charge against him “political persecution.”

“He's paying us back,” Al Gerhart said of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. “It's absolutely payback.”

Prater last week charged Gerhart with blackmail in connection with an email sent to Sen. Cliff Branan.

Prater also charged Gerhart with violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act. Both counts are felonies.

Gerhart, 54, of Oklahoma City, turned himself in Saturday at the Midwest City jail after returning from an overseas trip. He is free on a $15,000 bond.

Gerhart alleged Monday that Prater charged him because of disclosures the Sooner Tea Party made in newsletters about the district attorney.

Gerhart said the disclosures about Prater's 2006 victory party and other things prompted a state grand jury investigation of Prater.

Gerhart said he was called as a witness before the grand jury, and “they had copies of our Sooner Tea Party newsletter in there.”

Gerhart said Prater should disqualify himself from the blackmail case.

The grand jury in 2012 cleared Prater of any wrongdoing involving the victory party. The grand jury reported a defense attorney first made the accusations about the victory party.

Prater responded Monday, “Any allegation the defendant wants to make, we'll be happy to address in court.”

‘Free speech'


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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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