A 61-year-old woman who was arrested and convicted for laughing — also known as disorderly and disruptive conduct — during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing has just had that sentence overturned by a D.C. judge. He found it disturbing that the government’s legal argument in the trial of Desiree Fairooz was as simple as taking issue with her laughing at the now-Attorney General. Judge E. Robert Morin deemed that argument to have little merit and overturned Fairooz’s sentence due to the prosecution’s “improper arguments.”
The government might have pursued the case on, essentially, the grounds of having its feelings hurt, but jurors were swayed by other aspects of Fairooz’s behavior brought up in the trial. They felt, after evidence was presented, that Fairooz and her fellow Code Pink protestors did indeed cause a disturbance at the confirmation hearing. Fairooz was one of three women arrested that day. Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi were convicted of parading/demonstrating and unlawful display, and face stiff fines and up to a year in jail. Fairooz alone was charged with disrupting Congress.
“She did not get convicted for laughing,” the jury foreperson stated after the conviction. “It was her actions as she was being asked to leave.” Fairooz initially laughed when a senator testified that Sessions had a reputation for “treating all Americans equally under law.” She was quickly surrounded by security and escorted out of the room.
As she was pulled to her feet, Fairooz shouted, “Why am I being taken out of here? This man is evil! Don’t vote for Jeff Sessions! I was going to be quiet and now you’re going to have me arrested? For what? For what? You said something ridiculous! His voting record is evil!”
That is, indeed, a disturbance and briefly interrupted a proceedings. However, prosecutors overplayed their hand when, in closing arguments, they said that Fairooz’s laughter alone qualified her for conviction. That is the statement that Judge Morin found “disconcerting” and worth dismissing Fairooz’s sentence. “The court is concerned about the government’s theory,” said Judge Morin. He stated that laughter is not worth a criminal charge. That may be a useful legal precedent to have in place, should a member of the Trump administration feel slighted again.
(Via New York Daily News)