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New York Times: March 8, 2003: Ex-Candidate Fails in Bid To Overturn Conviction

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Ex-Candidate Fails in Bid To Overturn Conviction

New York Times
Saturday, March 8, 2003

By William Glaberson

John Kennedy O'Hara, one of the few people ever prosecuted in New York for lying about his voting address, yesterday lost what may be the last round in a marathon legal battle against the Brooklyn district attorney.

A federal judge, John Gleeson, rejected Mr. O'Hara's latest effort to contest a 1999 state court conviction that he has fought relentlessly. "I don't think there's a substantial showing of a denial of a federal constitutional right," Judge Gleeson said.

The judge rejected Mr. O'Hara's contention that lawyers who had handled his case provided ineffective representation, saying the evidence was nearly overwhelming that Mr. O'Hara had used a sham address for voting.

Through three trials and appeals to New York's highest court, Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, pursued Mr. O'Hara, who repeatedly ran for office in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and lost, usually by big margins. Prosecutors have argued that Mr. O'Hara lied about where he lived, claiming a Sunset Park address when he really lived on the outskirts of Bay Ridge.

Prosecutors contended that Mr. O'Hara used the false address after a 1992 redistricting moved him into different Assembly and City Council districts. Yesterday, Mr. Hynes said the ruling helped make clear that people "cannot misuse in a criminal way the electoral process in New York State."

Mr. O'Hara, now 41, was first convicted in 1997. During his six-year legal fight, he cast himself as a maverick at war with machine politicians and compared himself to Susan B. Anthony as a voting rights advocate. In defending the use of the Sunset Park address, he has always said that he spent considerable time there.

Yesterday he said that he was devastated and that he planned to ask the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, to review the case. "You've got to soldier on," he said.

Lawyers not involved in the case said it was unlikely that the federal appeals court would step into the case at this stage.

Mr. O'Hara's first conviction was overturned. A second trial ended with a hung jury. A third, in 1999, ended with his conviction on seven felony counts. Mr. O'Hara then appealed, lost, and took his case to the state Court of Appeals in Albany. That court's 2001 ruling against him was the final stop in the state court system. He then filed the federal case that Judge Gleeson decided yesterday.

Mr. O'Hara, who was a lawyer, was disbarred because of his felony convictions. He paid a fine of $20,000 and is completing 1,500 hours of community service, which involves cleaning in city parks, he said



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