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Oklahoma Tea Party co-founder charged with blackmailing state senator

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   April 10, 2013 at 11:29 AM   |   Comments

April 10 (UPI) -- Al Gerhart, co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party, was charged Tuesday with blackmail over an email that he admits sending to an Oklahoma state senator. The Oklahoman reports that Gerhart, 54, was also charged with violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.

Gerhart sent the email March 26 to Sen. Cliff Branan, promising to make the senator a "laughing stock" if he didn't bring a bill barring Oklahoma cities from participating in Agenda 21, a United Nations initiative to promote sustainable development.

“Branan, Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it,” Gerhart wrote in the email. “I will make you the laughing stock of the Senate if I don’t hear that this bill will be heard and passed. We will dig into your past, yoru [sic] family, your associates and once we start on you there will be no end to it. This is a promise.”

Branan, a Republican, is chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, and said that although the bill had passed the House, it wouldn't pass out of his committee because it was based on a right-wing conspiracy.

Although the U.S. is not bound by the initiative, many local governments have adopted Agenda 21 strategies for smart growth, transportation planning, and limited rural development. But many on the far right believe Agenda 21 is a U.N. conspiracy to take away Americans' property rights and herd the population toward cities.

Gerhart admitted at a news conference last week that he sent the email.

“Political pain and embarrassment will be necessary if the citizens expect to regain control of this Senate down here from the state chamber of commerce and special interests. The time for ‘nice' behavior is over with.”

Both charges are felonies for which Gerhart faces up to five years in prison.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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