Sooner Tea Party leader to face delayed blackmail trial

Sooner Tea Party leader Al Gerhart's blackmail trial is now scheduled for May 5.
BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: January 10, 2014 at 6:22 pm •  Published: January 11, 2014

An upset judge on Friday reluctantly postponed Sooner Tea Party leader Al Gerhart's blackmail trial to May 5.

“It's embarrassing how many cases in this courthouse get continued because, basically, lawyers wait until the last minute to do something,” Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliott said. “I am very disappointed. I am upset ... and I'm frustrated.”

Gerhart, 55, of Oklahoma City, is accused of blackmailing a state senator in March in an effort to get legislation passed. He denies wrongdoing, saying what he did is constitutionally protected free speech.

Jury selection in his trial was set to begin Monday.

Gerhart asked for the delay because his attorneys have not yet obtained emails from Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature that could become defense evidence.

The judge scolded defense attorney Mark E. Wilson of Oklahoma City for waiting until Dec. 20 to subpoena the information.

The judge noted that he had scheduled the January trial date when he met with attorneys Sept. 18. The judge complained Wilson should have sought the information from Fallin and the Legislature in September.

Wilson apologized twice. He told the judge he had thought the case would be resolved before trial through plea negotiations.

At the end of the hearing, Wilson revealed he was withdrawing from the case. Taking over are two attorneys from Tulsa.

Gerhart is charged with blackmail and violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.

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