Sooner Tea Party co-founder accused of violating grand jury secrecy order

Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart, who recently was charged with blackmail of a state legislator, now is accused of violating a judge's order to keep his grand jury testimony secret.
by Nolan Clay Modified: April 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm •  Published: April 25, 2013

Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart — already charged with blackmail — has a new legal problem.

Gerhart is accused of violating a judge's order that required him to keep secret his testimony before the state's 13th multicounty grand jury in May.

Gerhart, 54, of Oklahoma City, faces up to six months in jail and a $500 fine if found to be in indirect contempt of court. He denies wrongdoing.

Making the accusation is the attorney general's office, which advises grand jurors.

The accusation springs from comments Gerhart made to The Oklahoman in a telephone interview April 15 about his blackmail case.

Gerhart said he was charged with blackmail because of disclosures the Sooner Tea Party made in its newsletters about Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. “He's paying us back,” Gerhart said of Prater.

He contends the disclosures about Prater's 2006 victory party and other things caused the grand jury to investigate the district attorney.

He specifically told The Oklahoman on April 15 that he was called as a witness before the grand jury, and “they had copies of our Sooner Tea Party newsletter in there.”

Assistant Attorney General George Burnett alleged Gerhart's comment violated the nondisclosure order “and thereby subjects this Respondent to the contempt powers of this court.”

The grand jury's judge is Oklahoma County District Judge Barbara Swinton. She scheduled Gerhart's arraignment on the alleged violation for Tuesday.

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