The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 18, 2013

Jan. 13 trial set for Sooner Tea Party co-founder


From The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — A Jan. 13 trial date has been set for the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party on felony blackmail and computer crimes charges.

Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott set the date Wednesday for 55-year-old Al Gerhart. Gerhart is accused of sending an email to a state senator who testified that he felt threatened by the tone of the message.

Special Judge Susan Johnson ordered Gerhart to be tried on the charges earlier this month. Johnson rejected defense arguments that the email was political speech protected by the First Amendment.

Gerhart has acknowledged sending the email March 26. Among other things, the email demands the senator give a bill a committee hearing "or I will make sure you regret not doing it."

Gerhart pleaded not guilty.