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Sooner Tea Party co-founder to appeal blackmail conviction

An Oklahoma County judge ordered Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart to pay a $1,000 fine plus $90 to a victims’ fund.
by Nolan Clay Published: August 19, 2014

Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart told a judge Tuesday he will appeal his blackmail and computer crimes convictions even though he was only fined $1,000.

“I am a felon now for speaking my mind in a political manner,” he told reporters after his formal sentencing. “If I don’t, every single person in this state can be done the same way that I’ve been done. It is wrong. It is wrong.”

A jury in May found Gerhart, 56, guilty of blackmail for sending state Sen. Cliff Branan an email last year demanding passage of a bill in a Senate committee. Branan was 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.

In an unusual verdict, jurors chose no prison time as punishment. Instead, jurors said he should be fined $1,000 for blackmail.

Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliott on Tuesday ordered Gerhart to pay that fine, plus $90 to a victims’ compensation fund.

The judge refused to throw out the guilty verdict. Gerhart’s defense attorney argued the judge could on the grounds the facts stated in the charge do not constitute a public offense.

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

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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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