Read the court papers to overturn conviction

New York Times, O'Hara Turns The Tables on Hynes
New York Times

Clear John O'Hara's Wrongly Stained Record
New York Daily News

Did Joe Hynes cross ethical lines?
Brooklyn Ron

Voting is a right, not a crime
Times Union

Begging the gov's pardon for John O'Hara
New York Daily News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should pardon political-vendetta victim John O'Hara
New York Daily News

Gov. Paterson's final interview about the O'Hara pardon

Gov. Paterson commuted John White’s prison sentence, now he must pardon John O’Hara
New York Daily News

A Life in Court: Friendship and Corruption Inside the Brooklyn System
The Brooklyn Ink, Alysia Santo

Gov. Paterson, pardon John O'Hara!
Time Union, David Kaczynski

Casting a vote made me a felon: As I later learned, the charges against me were fueled by politics
NY Daily News, John O'Hara

The Ballad of John Kennedy O'Hara
Bay Ridge Interpol

A voter, a felon and a lawyer
Times Union

Pardon him, sir: Paterson should clear Brooklyn man of the crime of voting
NY Daily News

Go, Alvin, Go!
Room Eight, John O'Hara

Pardon him, Governor: Brooklyn victim of political persecution should be exonerated
NY Daily News

D.A. Hynes and the Residency Meltdown
Room Eight, Vincent Nunes

Voting Isn't A Crime
New York Daily News

A Voting Outrage
Times Union, Albany

Triple Jeopardy
New York Sun

Hitting'em Where They Live
New York Daily News

Residency Redefined Under the Election Law
New York Law Journal

Voters As Convicts
Times Union, Albany

Brooklyn Eagle Cartoon

No Excuse for Slick Rick Pardon
New York Daily News


A voter, a felon and a lawyer

Times Union
October 14, 2009


The prosecution of a Brooklyn political activist named John Kennedy O'Hara over which address he voted from, his apartment in Sunset Park or a long-ago girlfriend's apartment 14 blocks away, was suspicious from the start.

Pursuing a felony case where civil prosecution is far more common, over something as arcane and inconsistently enforced as New York's voting laws, smacked of political retaliation against someone who had unsuccessfully run for office several times against the Brooklyn Democratic machine and had managed the campaigns of others who did so.

Now the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court has said as much as it reinstated Mr. O'Hara's license to practice law.

Mr. O'Hara was disbarred as an attorney, was fined $20,000 and ordered to complete 1,500 hours of community service after a 1999 conviction on seven counts of falsely registering and then voting from what the Brooklyn district attorney's office maintained was a sham address.

Mr. O'Hara successfully appealed, only to be retried twice, first in a case that resulted in a hung jury and then in one that brought a conviction upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2001.

Here's what the Committee on Character and Fitness of the Appellate Division's Second Department had to say about that legal saga:

"Mr. O'Hara, it accurately appears, claims that the machine went gunning for him and pounced on his change of residency, calling it election fraud."

The committee's 25-0 recommendation concluded, "although the committee has grave doubts that Mr. O'Hara did anything that justified his criminal prosecution, even if Mr. O'Hara was guilty of the offense for which he was convicted, we believe that Mr. O'Hara now has the requisite character and fitness to be reinstated as a member of the bar."

Mr. O'Hara is a lawyer again, not merely a political activist, at the age of 48.

"He believes that being a lawyer in good standing will help him to continue to assist those he believes have been treated unjustly by the legal system," the recommendation for his reinstatement said.

A man who readily acknowledges newfound appreciation for the very profession from which he was banished could make a difference, surely. He could work, consistent with both his passions, to persuade the state Legislature to bring clarity to the matter of residency and voting.

The laws are a mess. Too much of what constitutes a valid address and what constitutes a sham address is left to interpretation.

Finally, someone whose passions are the law and the politics that surround the law can teach the people who work, or even dabble, in either pursuit some lessons of overzealous prosecution.

New York is a better state with Mr. O'Hara on this side of the law.