The founder of a tea party group in Oklahoma was charged with two felonies on Tuesday for allegedly sending threatening emails to a Republican lawmaker after he refused buy in to the notion that the United Nations was conspiring to transform the country into a communist dictatorship.
According to the Oklahoman, 54-year-old Sooner Tea Party founder Al Gerhart faces up to five years in prison for blackmail and violating the state computer crimes act.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation determined that Gerhart admitted sending an email to state Sen. Cliff Branan (R) "that was intended to threaten and intimidate him."
Gerhart had been angry because Branan refused to allow a vote on a bill that would have ensured Oklahoma cities do not participate in Agenda 21, a United Nations initiative to promote environmentally sustainable development. Conspiracy theorists on the right have long thought that Agenda 21 was a "conspiracy to transform America from the land of the free, to the land of the collective” through “a mind-control" tactic called the Delphi technique.
Although the Oklahoma state House had passed House Bill 1412, Branan refused to bring it up in the state Senate because he said it was based on a "fringe conspiracy."
"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."
At a press conference last week, the tea party leader admitted 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," he insisted. "The time for ‘nice' behavior is over with."
Gerhart suggested to reporters that there was "scuttlebutt" at the state Capitol that the state senator pushed for criminal charges because he was afraid the Sooner Tea Party would reveal infidelities.
On Tuesday, a judge set a bail of $15,000 and ordered Gerhart to stay at least 1,000 feet from Branan and his family.