OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma County judge has ordered the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party to be tried on felony blackmail and computer crimes charges.
Special Judge Susan Johnson ruled Friday there is probable cause that 55-year-old Al Gerhart committed the crimes when he sent an email prosecutors allege was intended to intimidate Republican Sen. Cliff Branan of Oklahoma City.
Johnson rejected defense arguments that the email was political speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
Branan testified at a preliminary hearing Friday that he felt threatened by the March 26 e-mail. An affidavit says Gerhart acknowledged sending the e-mail that demands Branan give a bill a hearing, "or I will make sure you regret not doing it."
Gerhart pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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