The currently disbarred attorney has been disenfranchised since 1997 when he was convicted of voter fraud. The charges stem from elections in Brooklyn in 1992 and ’93.
O’Hara is a lifelong Democrat. But he is one with a gadfly image who has made a habit of either standing as a primaries candidate in opposition to the party leadership’s favored picks, or running the campaigns for candidates not favored by the King’s County Democratic hierarchy.
In 1992 and ’93 he voted out of his girlfriend’s home and not his own home some distance away.
“I was convicted for registering and voting out of an address that was not my permanent residence. But it was not a false address,” O’Hara said.
Ordinarily, an attempt to vote from a second or temporary address would not be noticed unless an individual tried to vote more than once in the same location, or in different locations on the same election day.
O’Hara did not do either. But he ended up in court nevertheless. In fact, he says he is the first New Yorker, indeed American, to be convicted of voting fraud since suffragist Susan B. Anthony in 1876.
Anthony ended up as an American hero with her face on a dollar coin.
O’Hara, following conviction in 1997 in State Supreme Court, ended up as a convicted felon with his mugshot in a police file. He was sentenced to five years’ probation, fined $20,000, disbarred from his law practice and sentenced to perform 1,500 hours of community service.
O’Hara appealed and his conviction was overturned in 1998. But the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office tried O’Hara a second time in 1999. The trial resulted in a hung jury. A third trial resulted in O’Hara being convicted again and this was confirmed on appeal.
“I am guilty as charged. But the question is whether or not it was a proper charge,” O’Hara said recently.
He contends that he has maintained a Bay Ridge home for more than 20 years. He said that for only for a relatively brief period did he live at his girlfriend’s address, and even then he changed his voter registration to reflect this change of address.
Prosecutors have countered that the move to the girlfriend’s address was merely a ploy so that O’Hara could run for election in the 51st Assembly District.
“If this was China, I would be classified as a dissident,” O’Hara said.
He said that when he was first arrested 10 years ago he was handcuffed and taken to a police lockup full of hardened criminals in his business suit. He was photographed and fingerprinted before being charged with seven felony counts related to voting fraud. Each carried a possible four-year sentence.
Because he was not ultimately sentenced to jail time, it appeared that O’Hara’s line of appeal had reached a dead end. But it turned out that the federal courts consider community service to be a form of confinement. In O’Hara’s case, such service means picking up garbage in Brooklyn public parks.
Late last year, federal judge John Gleeson signed an order paving the way for O’Hara to appeal his conviction in Brooklyn’s Eastern District court. A hearing has been set for Jan. 31.
O’Hara has gathered considerable support behind him. An editorial in the Albany Times Union newspaper described his conviction as an “outrage.”
And O’Hara carries with him an amicus brief from the League of Women Voters, the historical legacy of Susan B. Anthony, to date his lone companion in a rather select felons club.