Justice Dept. Will Retry Woman Who Laughed During Jeff Sessions's Hearing

Desiree Fairooz

The Justice Department will retry Desiree Fairooz, the woman who was arrested for laughing during Jeff Sessions’s confirmation hearing, whose conviction a judge tossed in her first trial in July because “laughter alone was legally insufficient to convict someone of disorderly or disruptive behavior on Capitol grounds, or disrupting Congress,” according to CNN. 

Now, having rejected a plea deal that would have required the 61-year-old activist and mother to plead guilty, Fairooz is once again headed to trial for laughing during Sessions’s confirmation hearing when Sen. Richard Shelby asserted that Sessions had a "clear and well-documented" record of "treating all Americans equally under the law." Fairooz has said the laugh was a reaction to a statement she considered to be patently false. 

"It was an immediate rejection of what I considered an outright lie or pure ignorance," she said.

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

An activist from Arlington, Texas, Fairooz kicked 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). 

Fairooz’s new trial is scheduled to begin November 13.

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