The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was asked Monday to investigate an email that warned a state senator he would become “the laughing stock of the Senate” unless legislation passed out of his committee.
The co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party admitted in an interview with The Oklahoman that he sent the email to state Sen. Cliff Branan.
“We will expose that man's dirty laundry. We will show people what he is like,” Al Gerhart said. “It is not a threat. I put down there clearly: This is a promise.”
In the March 26 email, Gerhart wrote about House Bill 1412, which would prohibit Oklahoma communities from having anything to do with the United Nations Agenda 21 plan.
Misspelling one word, Gerhart wrote: “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.”
Branan, R-Oklahoma City, confirmed Monday that he turned a copy of the email over to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol captain at the Capitol.
“It really doesn't matter what they say about me, but it's when they bring in the family into it, which really kind of concerned me,” Branan said.
Blackmail or protected free speech?
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol on Monday asked the OSBI to investigate. Once an investigation is complete, the OSBI is expected to turn over its reports to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater for a decision on prosecution.
At issue is whether the email could be considered blackmail or protected free speech.
Under Oklahoma law, blackmail can involve a written communication that threatens to expose information about someone “which would in any way subject such person to the ridicule or contempt of society.”
Under the law, blackmail occurs if the intent of the communication is “to extort or gain any thing of value from another or to compel another to do an act against his or her will.”
Gerhart said passage of the HB 1412 is critical.
“It's all about property rights. It's about whether or not you can build that pool in your backyard or whether you can put a fence up there,” he said. “And Agenda 21 is one of these issues that is real. It's out there. They're implementing it. It's going to take decades for them to do it but it's coming and now is the time for people to stop it.”