His day in court: John O’Hara sues former DA, assemblyman for ‘malicious prosecution’ in ’90s conviction

Exonerated! Hynes foe John O’Hara’s voter-fraud conviction finally overturned after 20 years

A former Brooklyn district attorney and assemblyman colluded to fabricate evidence and bribe witnesses so they could convict a political rival of voter fraud, a civil complaint filed Tuesday in Kings County federal court alleges.

Sunset Park attorney John O’Hara, who is running for judgeship in Brooklyn civil court, said he’s bringing suit in order to drag defendants Charles Hynes and James Brennan through the legal system following a two-decade struggle to clear his name.

“You know what I was doing for the last 20 years,” he said. “Now you know what I’ll be doing for the next 20 years. I’m in no hurry.”

Then District Attorney Hynes pursued O’Hara’s conviction throughout the early ’90s, and in 2000 finally succeeded in getting a guilty verdict after an unprecedented three trials — making the attorney the first New Yorker since legendary suffragette Susan B. Anthony to be convicted of voter fraud. He was sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service, fined $20,000, and prohibited from practicing law until 2008, when he was reinstated to the bar.

A conviction review unit assembled by Hynes’ successor Ken Thompson found evidence to exonerate O’Hara in January, and ever since the lawyer has vowed to seek justice for what he called malicious prosecution motivated by cutthroat, political greed.

The suit claims that O’Hara landed on Assemblyman Brennan’s radar when he challenged another Assembly candidate backed by the powerful state legislator in 1994 — a bid for office that followed the lawyer’s four previous, unsuccessful attempts to unseat members of what he calls Brooklyn’s “Democratic machine.”

Brennan, working with his chief of staff and another attorney, hired a private eye who illegally nabbed copies of O’Hara’s state tax returns while spying on him, the complaint alleges. The assemblyman tried to derail O’Hara’s ’94 campaign, and his subsequent assembly bid in 1996, by suing the political outsider in civil court, but each case was dismissed.

The pol then colluded with the district attorney to sue his rival for voter fraud, claiming O’Hara lived on 61st Street when he voted in an election district 14 blocks away, according to the complaint, which alleges Brennan and Hynes intentionally failed to record their surveillance of the lawyer in order to avoid giving evidence in his favor to a grand jury.

O’Hara claims he lived at his girlfriend’s 47th Street apartment throughout the three trials, but that the pol and top prosecutor paid neighbors to argue he lived elsewhere.

Brennan would camp outside the 66th Precinct waiting for police detectives investigating the case so he could direct them in their probe, the complaint claims. In addition, it states that Hynes subpoenaed O’Hara’s mail — which was opened before it was returned — and alleges the lawyer was constantly followed by a man in a black town car.

Hynes declined to comment on the allegations, saying he’s been sued many times and his policy is not to comment on pending litigation.

A spokesman for Brennan said the former pol is innocent and plans on counter-suing O’Hara for libel.

“The complaint is meritless and malicious, and obviously timed to get publicity for his campaign,” said Stuart Marques. “We plan to countersue for libel.”

The massive 41-page complaint the attorney filed this week follows an initial notice that he filed in Brooklyn civil court in February.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.