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O'Hara Illegal Voting Case

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Posted by Brooklyn Daily Eagle on 11:06:42 10/19/05

O’Hara Illegal Voting Conviction Upheld

Judge Gerges Dismisses Motion to Overturn

By Charles Sweeney

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

ADAMS STREET- A motion to dismiss the illegal voting conviction of long-time political insurgent John O’Hara was denied yesterday in a 12-page ruling handed down by Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges.

O’Hara’s motion to set aside his conviction was based on a claim of ‘selective prosecution,’ alleging that Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes prosecuted him as a favor to Assemblyman James Brennan, a long-time political opponent of O’Hara.

The new evidence, allegedly uncovered during interviews conducted for an article by Heights-based journalist Christopher Ketcham for the November 2004 issue of Harper’s Magazine, alleges a conspiracy between Brennan and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. The article and its publication eventually stirred the dormant case, culminating with Ketcham eventually providing a sworn affidavit in support of O’Hara’s claims.

Gerges dismissed the four claims made by Ketcham in his supporting affidavit, one of which was based on a conversation he alleges he had with a police officer who’d told him he had been conducting surveillance of O’Hara at the indirect behest of Brennan.

Gerges wrote that there was “no independent factual basis for these claims,” adding that “no sworn affidavit” from the officer in question was provided in the motion.

O’Hara called Gerge’s decision premature, that “he should’ve at least granted a hearing a hearing” in the matter.

“How can you know if Ketcham’s telling the truth about who he spoke to? You at least hold a hearing,” O’Hara said. “You get the people involved in a courtroom and you hear testimony.”

A disappointed O’Hara vowed to fight on in his effort to reverse the conviction, for which he’s received five years probation and a fine of $20,000, along with an order to perform a 1,500 hours of community service.

O’Hara said he has about 100 hours to go on the sentence, but was more concerned with the message that he said this kind of ruling sends out to the public.

“It’s a sad thing, to not even get a hearing,” O’Hara said. “I’m the only person to be convicted of illegal voting in the history of New York State.”

Gereges’ ruling, though unfavorable to O’Hara, did not spare the District Attorney’s office, calling it “especially disturbing” that the DA did not provide him with information as to who initiated the prosecution of O’Hara in the first place.

Gerges wrote also that it was “not clearly explained why a homicide ADA (assistant district attorney) was chosen to prosecute a low-level felony.”

He also called the failure of Hynes’ office to supply information as to the nature of Brennan’s involvement “extremely troubling.”

O’Hara’s says he will appeal the decision to through the appropriate channels, in hopes that he can eventually get a hearing on the matter. In the meantime the case is currently the subject of a documentary by Emmy-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, and has become something of a cause among alternative and advocacy journals, some reaching as far as New Zealand.

An Internet search under “O’Hara” and “Illegal voting” turns up a score of articles critical of the spirit in which the prosecution was undertaken, given that the case turned out to be one of the most expensive series of trials in the history of the Kings County, all for the almost unheard-of crime of illegal voting.

###




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