Sooner Tea Party co-founder in Oklahoma calls blackmail charge against him 'political persecution'

Al Gerhart, of Oklahoma City, faces a felony blackmail charge stemming from an email he sent to Oklahoma state Sen. Cliff Branan. Gerhart turned himself in over the weekend at Midwest City jail after returning from an overseas trip.
by Nolan Clay Published: April 16, 2013

Gerhart has admitted to sending the email to Branan. He said again Monday he did nothing wrong.

“Absolutely not. Absolutely not. This is free speech all the way,” Gerhart said.

Gerhart sent the email to Branan on March 26, promising to make the senator a laughingstock unless the Senate Energy and Environment Committee passed a bill dealing with a United Nations plan.

Branan, R-Oklahoma City, is chairman of the committee. The senator turned the email over to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. His committee did not hear the bill dealing with the U.N. plan.

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.”

Under state 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.”


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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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