Conviction Tossed for Woman Charged With Laughing During Sessions Confirmation

Desiree Fairooz

Activist Desiree Fairooz was convicted in May of disorderly and disruptive conduct and for acting unlawfully on Capitol grounds for laughing during Jeff Sessions’s Senate confirmation hearing for attorney general, but a judge in Washington, D.C,. threw out the conviction Friday and ordered a new trial, according to Buzzfeed News.

Fairooz, 61, was arrested January 10 for bursting out in laughter when Republican Sen. Richard Shelby remarked on Sessions’s "clear and well-documented" record of "treating all Americans equally under the law.” 

Detailing the arrest that occurred during the Sessions hearing, Fairooz said she was with fellow activists Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, who were also arrested and convicted. They had already been removed from the room by the time a rookie police officer attempted to force Fairooz from the premises, reports HuffPost. As officers hauled her out of the room she shouted, “Do not vote for Jeff Sessions,” which the foreperson of the jury that found her guilty said was the reason she was arrested. However, she would not have been forcibly removed from the room if she hadn’t been caught laughing. 

Before Chief Judge Robert Morin vacated the conviction and granted a motion for a new trial Friday, Fairooz faced a possible sentence of up to one year in prison and a $2,000 fine. 

Morin tossed out the conviction when prosecutors said in closing arguments that “laughter alone was enough to merit a conviction,” Fairooz’s attorney Samuel Bogash told Buzzfeed News. 

"What [Morin] said was that the laughter alone was legally insufficient to convict someone of disorderly or disruptive behavior on Capitol grounds, or disrupting Congress," Bogash said. "He doesn't know whether they convicted her for a legally sufficient reason or a legally insufficient reason.” 

An activist and mom from Arlington, Texas, Fairooz amped up her resistance with the women-led activist group Code Pink, formed in 2003 to oppose George W. Bush’s Iraq war, and has since protested with the group on countless occasions. She’s been arrested up to eight times for protesting previously (usually with the knowledge that her protest was actionable). 

A status hearing for Fairooz has been scheduled for September 1, according to Buzzfeed News. 

Tags: Politics, Women

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