Statement of Facts
On October 21, 1996, John O’Hara was indicted on seven felony counts for registering to vote and voting. The first count was when he registered to vote, count two was that his address was not his principal and permanent residence, and then he voted in five separate elections and primaries over the next year.
He did not vote twice in the same day and he did not vote from a sham address, he just voted.
Each count carried up to four years in prison, meaning O’Hara was facing 28 years in prison for voting.
As the dissenting opinion from the New York State Court of Appeals said in its 2007 decision in People v O’Hara, O’Hara’s prosecution was the first of its kind. O’Hara also became the first person in Brooklyn’s history to be tried three times on the same charge. The first trial was reversed on appeal, the second trial ended when the jury couldn’t reach a verdict, the third trial ended with another conviction. A dozen appeals followed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case of People v. O’Hara became one of the most expensive criminal cases in New York’s history.
Ironically, as Harper’s magazine reported in its December 2004 cover story by Christopher Ketcham, “Meet the New Boss,” The Brooklyn District Attorney didn’t even have a valid address in Brooklyn as required by law. Hynes was registered to vote from his office in the municipal building at 210 Joralemon Street, while really living in a gated all-white compound in Breezy Point, Queens. Although Hynes initially threatened to sue Harper’s magazine, his spokesman later conceded to reporter Jotham Sederstrom at The Brooklyn Paper stating, “that the District Attorney was in residential limbo.”
John O’Hara has lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood for his entire life.
The Brooklyn District Attorney admitted to going through every check, credit card slip, and tax return of O’Hara’s for the last 20 years, along with round-the-clock-surveillance of his home and the homes of his family members.
Records show that the District Attorney’s detectives raided the apartment building of O’Hara’s mother, conducting interviews of neighbors to see if O’Hara visited his mother, which would apparently disqualify him from voting.
The reality is that O’Hara was targeted because he ran against the incumbent politicians on five occasions. As the affidavit from Harper’s scribe Chris Ketcham details, the prosecutors called O’Hara’s opponent, Assemblyman James Brennan, when the verdict came in to say, “We won,” meaning O’Hara’s real crime was that he ran for office and lost.
Oscar-winning documentary film-maker Alex Gibney has been shooting a documentary about O’Hara’s plight titled “The Dissidents,” a term usually reserved for foreigners.
Governor Cuomo’s pardon can show that in the end, justice can prevail.