Blackmail Trial Set for Sooner Tea Party Leader - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Blackmail Trial Set for Sooner Tea Party Leader

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Jury selection is set to begin in Oklahoma County District Court for the trial of the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party on blackmail and computer crimes charges.

The trial gets underway Monday for Al Gerhart. Gerhart was charged in April 2013 for allegedly sending an email intended to intimidate Republican Sen. Cliff Branan of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.

An affidavit says Gerhart acknowledged sending the email on March 26, 2013. It concerned a House-passed bill favored by 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."

Defense attorneys say the email was merely political speech protected by the First Amendment.

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