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Boston Globe: N.Y. man fights illegal-voting conviction

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Posted by GET NY on 09:03:25 12/09/04

N.Y. man fights illegal-voting conviction
Political activist seeks vindication as ruling nears

By Darryl McGrath, Globe Correspondent, 1/8/2004

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A disbarred Wall Street lawyer, convicted of the almost unheard-of felony charge of illegal voting, is seeking vindication through a last-ditch appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The appellant is John Kennedy O'Hara, a longtime Brooklyn political activist who ran several insurgent campaigns against the Brooklyn Democratic machine until 1996, when he was convicted of voting using an address that was not his permanent residence. He says party bosses targeted him for prosecution to silence him.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to decide tomorrow whether it will accept the appeal. The case has wended through state and federal courts, an odyssey that has included a conviction, a reversal on appeal, a hung jury in a second trial, and then another conviction. A state appeals court in Albany upheld the second conviction.

O'Hara has made a full-time pursuit out of seeking an overturn of his conviction and reinstating his right to vote and his ability to practice law. He faced up to 28 years in prison on seven charges of illegal voting, but instead was sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service. He has spent that time picking up garbage in Brooklyn parks. His appeals have cost him tens of thousands of dollars, but he said he has persevered on behalf of other activists who might be intimidated by fears of similar prosecutions.

"If you're going to start prosecuting people for voting, there's not much left after that," he said. "You don't have much choice when you're a convicted felon and a disbarred attorney, because you're wrecked."

He said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, backed by the Brooklyn Democratic Party, selectively prosecuted him for voting using the address he shared for a year with his then-girlfriend, even as he maintained his longtime apartment 14 blocks away in Brooklyn.

. . .

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