Begging the gov's pardon for John O'Hara
New York Daily News
Sept. 23, 2012
Wisdom and the law will likely convince Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance there are no grounds for action against three children of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who vote in his lower East Side district while living elsewhere.
Though New York’s election statute requires voters to cast ballots where they reside, the definition of residence covers a whole lot of territory. It describes a “permanent and principal home” but allows a voter to remain registered if he or she moves away but “always intends to return.”
It is doubtful, to say the least, that Silver’s grown children intend to return downtown: One lives on Long Island, one in New Jersey and one in Brooklyn. Still, the criminal justice system is not the venue to determine who intends to live where.
Absent evidence of fraud — for example, that a voter registered and cast ballots in two places — a prosecutor should leave the policing of elections to others.
If and when Vance closes his review of the Silver family voting, he’ll certify to the injustice done to the only man in modern times convicted of voting from the supposedly wrong address.
In the 1990s, John O’Hara, a political gadfly and thorn in the side of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, moved out of his home and in with his girlfriend, who lived 14 blocks away in the same neighborhood. He changed his registration to the new address and voted several times.
DA Joe Hynes indicted O’Hara in 1996 on charges of violating the residency rule and hounded him through three trials before winning a felony conviction in 1999. The verdict was upheld. O’Hara was disbarred as a lawyer and sentenced to community service.
In 2009, O’Hara won a measure of vindication when his law license was restored on a finding that there were “grave doubts that Mr. O’Hara did anything that justified his criminal prosecution.” A panel of lawyers added: “Mr. O’Hara, accurately, it appears, claims that the machine went gunning for him.”
Then-Gov. David Paterson declined to pardon O’Hara. He was wrong to turn him down. Gov. Cuomo can rectify the injustice done to O’Hara after Vance refrains from acting against Silver’s offspring for the exact conduct that subjected O’Hara to overzealous and selective prosecution.
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