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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