Update: On Wednesday, a jury found Desiree Fairooz guilty, and she now faces sentencing, which could include up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. “She did not get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave,” the jury foreperson said, according to The Huffington Post.
This story was originally published on May 2, 2017.
A woman was arrested and now faces prosecution for laughing at Jeff Sessions during his Senate confirmation hearing. No, this is not a joke.
During the attorney general's Senate hearing in January, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said Sessions’ history of "treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented." Desiree Fairooz, a Code Pink activist there to protest the former senator's hearing, audibly laughed at the statement and was arrested for it. The Huffington Post reports federal prosecutors are continuing forward with the charges against the 61-year-old woman.
The government claims Fairooz's laugh qualifies as “disorderly and disruptive conduct” intended to “impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct” of the hearing. She was additionally charged for allegedly parading, demonstrating, or picketing within the Capitol. However, Fairooz was sitting in the back of the room and her laugh didn't seem to interrupt the proceedings, based on video of the congressional hearing.
It's not hard to see why someone would laugh at claims that Sessions treats Americans equally, when he has a documented history of opposing legislation aimed at protecting LGBTQ people and was rejected for a federal judge position in the 1980s because he was accused of making racist comments. (It's also worth noting the irony in Fairooz facing charges for laughing at a comment about Sessions treating everyone fairly.)
Video of Fairooz's arrest (following the alleged laughter) shows multiple officers carrying her out of the room, and she eventually said, "Why am I being taken out of here?," then shouting at Sessions, "This man is evil. You're evil."
This was not Fairooz's first congressional protest, as she was arrested in 2007 after confronting then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a congressional hearing on U.S. Middle East policy, At the time, she waved her hands covered in fake blood in Rice's face while yelling, "The blood of millions of Iraqis is on your hands."
Fairooz claims she wasn't trying to be disruptive during Sessions' hearing, and another member of Code Pink testified in court that it was simply a reflex. If convicted for the serious crime of laughing, she could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and face a $500 fine.