Ballad of John Kennedy O'Hara
Bay Ridge Interpol
August 25, 2010
They called him"Mad Dog" because he was tenacious. In the early 1990's, John Kennedy O'Hara would run for office just about every year, lose, brush the dirt off, get up and try again the following year. Naturally, his political foes wanted the then young, upstart lawyer squelched. Mainly, because the pertinacious O'Hara wouldn't play ball with the hacks who dealt power like poker chips in smoky backroom deals deep inside Brooklyn. See, but back in the old days, insurrectionists like O'Hara would get their knees busted by Plug-Uglies on Election Day. These days, you stand before a crooked judge, get thrown off the ballot on an arcane technicality and end up broke from the legal fees. See, these days, the Plug-Uglies don't have sticks, they have law degrees and hands in pockets across every aisle. And in the dark world of inside baseball, things can get pretty vindictive.
So as the story goes, John O'Hara ran against Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes. People say Charles doesn't enjoy being tested and isn't afraid to crush his challengers.
Soon after the race, O'Hara was indicted by his opponent Hynes, for a crime that the Daily News called a "prosecutorial jihad". O'Hara was basically charged with registering to vote, and, well, voting. He didn't vote twice in the same day, or vote from a false address or anything you might think would warrant a "charge".
O'Hara's only crime was that he had two apartments in the same neighborhood (Sunset Park) he's lived in for his entire life, and the one he voted from was not his "principal and permanent" residence.
Tried three times for the same seven felony counts, O'Hara was facing almost 30 years in jail simply for exercising his right to vote! Did we mention he was disbarred from practicing law, fined 20 grand and ordered to do 1500 hours of community service? Oh, and if you're keeping score at home, the last person to be tried for "illegal voting" was Susan B. Anthony in 1873.
O’Hara’s story has been chronicled in Harper’s Magazine, in scores of articles in the New York Times and in every major daily, and even overseas in the pages of magazines like the New Zealand Herald. Watch video interviews here and a documentary trailer here to get a better undertanding of the story.
Today, because of the dangerous precedent created by the People v. John O’Hara, anybody with two or more homes can face prison time if they vote. This includes students in dorms and homeless people living in shelters.
This petition asks the Governor Paterson, pursuant to Article IV, section 4 of the New York State Constitution to correct this injustice with an executive pardon for John O’Hara, who stands today a convicted felon and a disbarred lawyer.
This is not a liberal or conservative issue, it’s about justice. Please take a moment to sign the petition.