Blackmail can involve any communication that threatens to expose information about someone which would in anyway subject that person to the ridicule and contempt of society. It is blackmail if the communication is meant to extort or gain anything of value from another or compel another to do an act against his or her will.
The Oklahoma Blackmail Statute
According to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals that's not entirely true. Especially if the person who you are threatening to expose to the ridicule and contempt of society is a state senator.
Yesterday the court, in a three to two vote, reversed the conviction of Sooner Tea Party founder Al Gerhart. He had been convicted of violating the Oklahoma computer crimes act and blackmail. The trial and conviction came after prosecutors and a jury decided Gerhart had stepped over the line after he emailed then state senator Cliff Branan a particularly nasty note because Branan had stalled a bill, Mr. Gerhart was hot to trot for in his committee..
The email read, "Branan get that bill heard, or I will make sure you regret not doing it. I will make you the laughing stock of the Senate if I don't hear 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."
After the email became public Gerhart called a press conference and claimed the senate, "scuttlebutt," was that Branan had turned a hard copy of the email over to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer only because the senator had committed an, "infidelity." He went on to say Branan had an affair with an aide which ended badly after the aide told her boss she wouldn't marry him.
In addition, brother Gerhart told reporter, Nolan Clay, "We want to know what is going on down there. We want to know if his wife has a criminal history. We want to know everything about him. We want to know if this man is a responsible citizen, if he's even got his family under control, much less his office. I want people in his church to know what he's doing. That it's wrong."
Clay wrote in today's The Oklahoman, that Judge Gary Lumpkin, speaking for the majority of the court, said of Gerhart's evil tirade, "In reality is it not different from the corporate lobbyist who subtly infers the loss of campaign contributions and support if a bill is not heard, or passed?"
Actually, subtle isn't the first word which comes to mind while reading Gerhart's email, or subsequent attack on Branan. Not to mention that privately hinting at the loss of contributions and political support is a tad different from publicly airing what amounted to an unfounded rumor of sexual misconduct--then tacitly implying the senator's wife had a criminal record and his kids were running amok on the mean streets of Nichols Hills.
People who have dealt with Al Gerhart in the past have said things like, "He has slandered and libeled many...he has no conscience to speak of," and "I don't know what he hopes to accomplish aside from destruction." Like Branan, all of them are republicans.
In fact, Gerhart's idea of democracy is such that when he was the state coordinator of Ron Paul's last presidential campaign he let it be known that all prospective Paul delegates to republican county conventions had to be vetted by, "the national campaign." By the national campaign he meant--you guessed it--Al Gerhart. That's right, if you couldn't pass the Big Al purity test, no matter how happy you were to vote for Mr. Paul, you didn't get in.
Right now our man, Al Gerhart and his attorney are busy as beavers, telling everyone he is the bravest, not to mention greatest, champion of free speech since, Thomas--by God--Jefferson.
The bill which started this entire sordid affair, the one Branan called a, "a fringe issue and bad public policy," died a quick death in the Oklahoma Senate. The sponsor, Patrick Anderson, R-Ardmore pulled it from consideration after apologizing to Branan for Gerhart's, "...personal attacks and false accusations..." against him.
To this day, Gerhart has never provided any proof of the alleged affair between the former senator and his aide. In fact, the Uncle Fester look alike seems to have forgotten about it altogether.
Well, what do you expect? When it comes to the lunatic right wing these hot button issues have all the staying power of hula hoops and pet rocks. Indeed, nowadays, when someone asks Don Trump where he thinks Barack Obama was born the question is dismissed in an instant. Never mind all those years Trump claimed Obama was born in Kenya, or Indonesia, or just about any where, but here.
The truth is, Al Gerhart is a two bit political thug, a sort of new age, low rent, Joe McCarthy--in other words, simply another savage bully.
Such is the nature of the 21st century republican party.
And yes, that noise you hear is Abraham Lincoln rolling over in his grave. Hey, given the circumstances can you blame him?
I thought not