Oklahoma Tea Party leader Al Gerhart was charged Tuesday with two felonies after threatening to make a “laughing stock” out of Republican state Sen. Cliff Branan if he did not push legislation to block the United Nations’ Agenda 21 program.
Local prosecutors charged Gerhart, head of the Sooner Tea Party, with blackmail and violating Oklahoma’s Computer Crimes Act for sending the offensive email. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater applauded Branan for reporting the matter.
“I believe he was very courageous in the way he handled this knowing there could be further repercussions to him or to his family,” Prater said Tuesday. “The manner in which Sen. Branan has handled this situation will hopefully prevent this … from happening in the future.”
It’s up to a judge or a jury of his peers,” Branan said Tuesday after turning over the email. “It’s not for me to determine what happens next. … Let me … tell you how uncomfortable this is for me and my family. This is not anything that I asked to have thrown in my lap. I trust in our system. It’s up for a jury of his peers to really determine.”
The Oklahoman reports that a judge set Gerhart’s bail at $15,000 and stated that the Tea Party leader must stay at least 1,000 feet away from Branan and his family upon posting bail.
Under Oklahoma law, any correspondence “which would in any way subject such person to the ridicule or contempt of society” or would “extort or gain any thing of value” is deemed blackmail.
Some Oklahoma Tea Party members have expressed their mistrust of Gerhart and noted that he had been breaking away from the ideals of the movement.