The Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions will retry Desiree Fairooz, a former children’s librarian and Code Pink activist arrested for laughing during Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January.
This contemptible use of government resources and taxpayer dollars to silence dissent comes after Fairooz, 61, rejected a plea deal requiring her to plead guilty to unlawful conduct on Capitol grounds in exchange for time served, CNN reported.
A jury previously had convicted Fairooz in May, but a judge threw out that conviction two months later and ordered a new trial. The legal argument in Fairooz’s case is befuddling because jury members said they voted to convict based on Fairooz’s behavior after Capitol Police began removing her from the room. The reason Judge Robert E. Morin of the D.C. Superior Court tossed that conviction was that the government had argued the laugh alone was enough to convict, HuffPost reported at the time. Morin said she should’ve been convicted on her post–laugh activities.
It’s a chicken–or–the–egg case, with Fairooz arguing that the reason she was removed was for laughing—which didn’t actually disrupt the proceedings—and she only began shouting when it was clear that she would be removed from the room and likely arrested. In a May interview with Jezebel, Fairooz said she had not planned on being arrested that day, and if police would have left her alone, she wouldn’t have caused any further disruptions.
The police officer who detained Fairooz was a rookie cop who had never made an arrest before or worked at a congressional hearing, according to HuffPost.
Two other Code Pink protesters, Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, also were arrested before the hearings began.
You can hear Fairooz’s slight laughter as Republican Sen. Richard Shelby lauds Sessions’ “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law” at this link:
And here’s her reaction as she’s being removed from the hearing:
In the interview with Jezebel, Fairooz described that moment:
At that point, I could not hold in my chortle. I just thought it was crazy. I don’t regret having laughed. At the moment, I didn’t think anything was going to happen. Then a few seconds passed and then a young officer comes over to me and she says, “Come with me, ma’am,” and I said, “Why? I’m going to be quiet,” and she called over other officers and she tried to physically lift me and I was refusing to go. At that point, that’s when they created disturbance by bringing over other police officers. I was charged with parading, but they paraded me. It was maddening. I was upset at that point and I thought this was unjust and that they were just making an example of me.
A new trial over the case of illicit laughter has been scheduled for Nov. 13. If convicted, Fairooz could face up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine—which makes her decision to reject the plea deal all that much more admirable.