Blackmailer created website critical of Oklahoma state senator

Al Gerhart, the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party who last week was convicted of blackmail, acknowledges he is behind parody website.
by Nolan Clay Published: May 13, 2014
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Convicted blackmailer Al Gerhart has created a parody website attacking the senator who turned him in.

“This is America,” Sen. Cliff Branan said Tuesday. “As long as he is not threatening and he is abiding by our Oklahoma ethics rules, he can proceed as he wants.

“He, of all people, should know I’m not somebody who will be bullied. I have a record of standing up against political pressure.”

Branan, R-Oklahoma City, is now running for a seat on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Gerhart, a co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party, calls the senator a bigot. Gerhart acknowledged in an interview with The Oklahoman that he is behind the website, ElectBrananTheBigot.com.

A jury last week convicted Gerhart, 55, of blackmail for sending Branan an email in March 2013 demanding passage of a bill in a Senate committee. Branan is chairman of that committee.

The jury also found Gerhart guilty of violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act for using a computer to accomplish the blackmail.

Jurors chose as punishment a fine of $1,000.

Gerhart, an Oklahoma City carpenter, had faced up to 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines on the two felony offenses.

The senator did not give in to the blackmail, instead reporting it to the Nichols Hills police chief. The bill died when it was not heard in the Senate committee.

In the email, misspelling one word, Gerhart wrote: “Branan, Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it. I will make you the laughing stock of the Senate if I don’t hear that this bill will be heard and passed. We will dig into your past, yoru family, your associates and once we start on you there will be no end to it. This is a promise.”

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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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