OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma tea party leader convicted of sending a threatening email to a state lawmaker was sentenced Tuesday to pay a $1,000 fine in accordance to the recommendations of the jury.
Al Gerhart, 56, could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for his convictions on felony blackmail and computer crimes charges, but the Oklahoma County jury felt he didn’t deserve to be locked away and the judge concurred.
Gerhart sent 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.
The email also said, according to court documents: “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.”
Branan had refused to give the bill a hearing because he said it was based on a “fringe conspiracy” alleging that the U.N. wanted to use its Agenda 21 plan to encroach on the private property rights of Americans.
Gerhart did not speak during the sentencing hearing other than to say he plans to appeal the conviction. Afterward, he told reporters he believes his actions are protected by the First Amendment and that he has no regrets.
“If I protect the civil rights of everyone in the state, you better believe it’s worth it. I think we have the right to speak out against the crooked politicians.”
Branan, who was term-limited in the Senate, ran for the GOP nomination for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission but lost to former House Speaker Todd Hiett.
Gerhart said he believes the Sooner Tea Party was the reason behind Branan’s loss.
“What we tend to do is if someone hits us, we hit them back 10 times harder,” Gerhart said.