Sooner Tea Party Leader Speaks Out After Blackmail Sentencing

Tuesday, August 19th 2014, 6:46 pm
By: News 9

The Sooner Tea Party leader convicted of blackmail was formally sentenced in a blackmail case.

Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott upheld a jury's recommendation and ordered Sooner Tea Party Co-Founder Al Gerhart to pay a $1,000 fine for blackmail. Gerhart will not be fined for violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.

"The question you should be asking is, ‘Why did this prosecutor charge me in the first place?'" Gerhart asked. "I am a felon now for speaking my mind in a political matter."

In May, an Oklahoma County jury saw things differently. Jurors found him guilty of blackmail for sending Sen. Cliff Branan an email last year, demanding passage of a bill in a Senate committee.

"I was rough on Branan, but that's the only way people will listen to you. They are corrupt," said Gerhart.

8/18/2014 Related Story: OK Tea Party Leader Convicted In Blackmail Case To Pay $1K Fine

The state disagrees. Prosecutors previously said "he tried to hijack the political process" and applaud the jury for holding Gerhart accountable.

Gerhart claims he has no regrets.

"I think if I protect the civil rights of everyone in this state you better believe it is worth it," he said, arguing what he did was protected free speech. Gerhart now plans to appeal.

"If I don't, every person in this state can be done the same way I have been done, and it is wrong."

Gerhart said he was not the only one punished. He believes the Sooner Tea Party's campaign efforts against Branan kept his from being elected to the Corporation Commission.

News 9 was not able to reach Branan for comment in time for this report.