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.
Gerhart said Wednesday the judge's order didn't apply to him anymore.
“Here's the thing. That grand jury is over with. That means that the prohibition against a witness talking about what he knows is no longer in effect,” he said, referring to a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court opinion.
Before disbanding last year, the 13th multicounty grand jury itself revealed in a 25-page report that it had investigated Prater's victory party. Grand jurors cleared Prater of wrongdoing.
It also revealed in a perjury indictment against a restaurant owner that Gerhart was a witness before the grand jury.
In his blackmail case, Gerhart is accused of promising in an email to make a state senator a laughing stock unless legislation passed. Gerhart admits he sent the email March 26 to Sen. Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City. Gerhart contends the email is constitutionally protected free speech.
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.”