Biography of John Kennedy O'Hara
John Kennedy O’Hara, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, is the first American to be convicted for registering to vote and voting from a place that was not his “principal and permanent residence to which he always intended to return.” The last person prosecuted for illegal voting took place in 1873. The defendant in that case was Susan B. Anthony.
The son of working-class Irish Americans, the first in his family to finish college, O’Hara got his start in politics at age 11 by handing out flyers in George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign. O’Hara drove a cab at night through college and law school, ultimately becoming a Wall Street lawyer. In the 1990’s, O’Hara ran for public office, never winning but coming within a few hundred votes in a 1992 election for New York State Assembly.
The case of People –v– O’Hara spiraled into one of the most expensive criminal cases in New York’s history, with O’Hara being the first person in Brooklyn to be tried three times on the same charge.
After three trials, O’Hara was disbarred as an attorney, facing 28 years in prison. Refusing any plea deal O’Hara became the subject of over 250 newspaper and magazine articles, including over a dozen articles published in The New York Times, and is the subject of an upcoming documentary by Oscar winner Alex Gibney, titled “The Dissident.”
The publicity leading up to O’Hara’s sentencing managed to keep him out of prison, but did result in five years confined probation, $20,000 in fines and 1,500 hours of community service.
While appealing his conviction over the past decade, O’Hara successfully orchestrated a series of judicial races defeating the Brooklyn democratic machines grip on the judiciary.
John O’Hara still lives in Brooklyn and has petitioned Governor Paterson for a pardon.