Oklahoma tea party leader fined for blackmail

Oklahoma tea party leader fined for blackmail

CREATED Aug 20, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party has been fined $1,000 for felony blackmail and computer crimes convictions.

Al Gerhart was sentenced Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court. He faced up to ten years in prison, but the jury that convicted him in May recommended that he not serve prison time and the judge followed the jury's recommendation.

Gerhart was charged with sending a politically charged email to a state senator who testified he felt threatened by its tone. The March 2013 email warned Sen. Cliff Branan that if he didn't take up a bill favored by Gerhart's political group, that Gerhart would make sure he regretted that decision.

Gerhart did not speak during Tuesday's sentencing. Defense attorneys had argued the email was protected speech under the First Amendment. 

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