OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A judge has refused to dismiss blackmail charges filed against the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party.
Thursday's ruling clears the way for Al Gerhart to go to trial in January on charges of blackmail and violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act. Prosecutors say Gerhart sent an email with the intent to intimidate Republican Sen. Cliff Branan of Oklahoma City, who is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.
The Oklahoman reports that Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott rejected a request from Gerhart's attorneys to dismiss the charges. The defense argues that Gerhart's email was political speech protected by the First Amendment.