John O'Hara (Brooklyn politician)

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John Kennedy O'Hara (born c. 1961[1]) is an American lawyer, active in Brooklyn, New York politics. He is also the first person convicted of illegal voting in New York State since Susan B. Anthony was convicted for voting (before women had the right to vote) in 1872.[2][3] He was exonerated of the crime on Thursday, January 12, 2017.[4] On February 23, 2017, O'Hara filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit for $25 million against disgraced ex-Brooklyn D. A. Charles "Joe" Hynes.[5]

The son of working-class Irish Americans and the first in his family to go to college,[6] O'Hara's interest in politics was clear even in childhood: at the age of seven he wrote to his congressman complaining that he didn't have the right to vote but was still required to pay sales tax on toys. At the age of 11 he worked on George McGovern's campaign in the 1972 presidential election. At 16, his investigative reporting for his school newspaper resulted in the school principal being fired for lacking the appropriate license for his job.[7]

As a teenager and young man, he was involved with Brooklyn's Reform Democrats against the Meade Esposito machine. In the 1990s, he ran for office six times in primary election never winning but coming within a few hundred votes in a 1992 election for New York State Assembly.[8]

In 1996, O'Hara was charged with running for office and voting from a false address. In fact, O'Hara had voted from his girlfriend's apartment, in which approximately half of his time was spent. The discovery of O'Hara's voting habits was used by incumbent Brooklyn District Attorney Charles "Joe" Hynes to prosecute O'Hara for voting in a place other than his "principle and permanent residence". Refusing any plea deal, after a mistrial and a reversal on appeal, O'Hara was convicted of a felony in July 1999, sentenced to five years probation, a $20,000 fine and 1,500 hours of community service cleaning a park.[6] The case also resulted in his disbarment on November 10, 1997.[9][3]

He continued to appeal his case, and continued campaigning on behalf of other anti-machine candidates, especially for judgeships.[10] O'Hara-backed Peter Sweeney and Eileen Nadelson won judgeships in 2001 and several other insurgent candidates have won Brooklyn judgeships since then.[11] An attempt was made to prosecute Nadelson for election fraud for false petitions; these turned out to be false petitions by "a person or persons unknown to [her] campaign."[12] Civil rights lawyer Sandra Roper, backed by O'Hara in a failed 2001 candidacy against District Attorney Hynes,[11][13] was prosecuted for what Christopher Ketcham says "most observers agree is an unfounded charge of grand larceny".[11] Roper's trial ended in a mistrial on November 8, 2004.[14] A Brooklyn judge dismissed the charges February 28, 2005.[13]

On October 29, 2008, O'Hara's petition for re-admission to the bar was submitted by the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department to the Committee on Character And Fitness.[9] The Full Committee on Character And Fitness for the Second, Tenth, Eleventh and Thirteenth districts, voted unanimously on June 29, 2009, to approve the subcommittee's recommendation that O'Hara's application for reinstatement be granted.[12] On October 6, 2009, O'Hara was reinstated as an attorney by the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department.[9] However, his conviction still stood.[3]

In recommending O'Hara's reinstatement, the subcommittee of the Committee on Character And Fitness wrote, "Mr. O'Hara, accurately it appears, claims that the machine went gunning for him and pounced on his change of residency calling it election fraud. … 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 of which he was convicted, we believe Mr. O'Hara now has the requisite character and fitness to be reinstated as a member of the bar."[12] In December 2009, the New York Daily News urged a gubernatorial pardon to clear O'Hara's name, saying "It is beyond doubt that O'Hara was the victim of a criminal justice vendetta ginned up by enemies in the Brooklyn Democratic Party… At heart, the case was an example of selective and overzealous prosecution."[3][15][16]

On Thursday, January 12, 2017, he was exonerated of the crime when the Brooklyn District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit reviewed his case and reversed the conviction.[4] On February 23, 2017, O'Hara filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit for $25 million against disgraced ex-Brooklyn D. A. Charles "Joe" Hynes.[5]


  1. ^ Ketcham 2004, p. 47 says he was 11 years old when he worked on George McGovern's presidential campaign (which was in 1972).
  2. ^ Ketcham 2004, p. 53–54
  3. ^ a b c d Pardon him, governor: Brooklyn victim of political persecution should be exonerated, New York Daily News editorial, 2009-12-21. Accessed online 2010-01-25.
  4. ^ a b "First New Yorker prosecuted for voter fraud since 1873 exonerated in 20-year legal battle". 
  5. ^ a b "Candidate for Brooklyn civil court judge files malicious prosecution lawsuit against ex-DA Charles Hynes". 
  6. ^ a b Ketcham 2004, p. 45
  7. ^ Ketcham 2004, p. 47
  8. ^ Ketcham 2004, p. 49
  9. ^ a b c 1997-05257 In the Matter of John Kennedy O’Hara, a disbarred attorney, Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department, October 6, 2009
  10. ^ Ketcham 2004, pp. 54–56
  11. ^ a b c Ketcham 2004, p. 56
  12. ^ a b c In the Matter of the Application of John Kennedy O'Hara for Reinstatement to the Bar of New York, State of New York Committee on Character And Fitness for the Second Judicial Department, September 23, 2007; accessed online January 25, 2010.
    The subcommittee report (dated May 21, 2009) is attached in the PDF.
  13. ^ a b Diane Cardwell, Theft Charges Against a Rival to a Prosecutor Are Dismissed, The New York Times, 2005-03-01. Accessed online 2010-01-25.
  14. ^ John Marzulli, Mistrial in Fraud Case vs. Hynes Foe[permanent dead link], New York Daily News, 2004-11-09. Accessed online 2010-01-25.
  15. ^ Yaniv, Oren (16 January 2015). "Brooklyn lawyer claims ex-DA Charles Hynes singled him out in 1999 felony voter fraud conviction". New York Daily News. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Hurowitz, Noah (2 February 2015). "Hynes foe: Former DA was as guilty as me of voter fraud". The Brooklyn Paper. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 


  • Ketcham, Christopher (December 2004), "Meet the New Boss: Man vs. machine politics in Brooklyn", Harper's Magazine: 45–56  PDF available on Ketcham's personal site.

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