Pardon him, sir: Paterson should clear Brooklyn man of the crime of voting
NY Daily News
July 21, 2010
Gov. Paterson is reported to be planning to issue hundreds of pardons before his time expires in five months. Let him not get carried away, but let him include John O'Hara among those who benefit from a governor's extraordinary power to wipe the slate clean.
O'Hara is a man who was wrongly branded a felon after three trials in an overzealous prosecution, heavy with political overtones, by Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes.
A political gadfly, O'Hara had long annoyed the Brooklyn Democratic Party. He came to Hynes' attention after challenging an incumbent for election and wound up the first person convicted in this state for voting since Susan B. Anthony's trial in 1873.
There was no fraud. He did not cast more than one ballot. The only issue was that O'Hara, who had two residences, supposedly voted from the wrong one.
Following his 1997 conviction, O'Hara was disbarred as a lawyer and completed a sentence of 1,500 hours of community service and five years of probation. He paid a $20,000 fine and began fighting to clear his name.
In October, the Appellate Division restored O'Hara's law license. A special panel of attorneys who reviewed the case for the court found "grave doubts that Mr. O'Hara did anything that justified his criminal prosecution."
The panel stated: "Mr. O'Hara, accurately, it appears, claims that the machine went gunning for him."
He applied for a gubernatorial pardon Nov. 2 and is deserving because his conviction represented an unwarranted, unwise and unjust application of the brute force of criminal law to a citizen who got under the skin of a few politicians.