Jury selection to begin for Sooner Tea Party head

Ponca City Now - May 5, 2014 6:37 am

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party is set to go to trial on felony blackmail and computer crimes charges.

Jury selection begins Monday for the trial of Al Gerhart. Charges were filed in Oklahoma County District Court in April 2013 after Gerhart allegedly sent an email intended to intimidate Republican Sen. Cliff Branan of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.

Gerhart has acknowledged that he sent the email on March 26, 2013, concerning a House-passed bill favored by conservative tea party supporters that Branan did not hear in his committee.

Among other things, the email demanded that Branan give the measure a hearing, "or I will make sure you regret not doing it."

Gerhart maintains that the email was merely political speech protected by the First Amendment.


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