DOJ Actually Seeking Jail Time for Protester Who Laughed at Jeff Sessions’ Confirmation Hearing
Prosecutors with the Department of Justice are asking a D.C. judge to uphold the jury’s “guilty” verdict against a female activist who was arrested for laughing during Attorney General Jeff Session’s confirmation hearing earlier this year.
Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz was taken into custody at the Senate hearing in January after she chuckled when one of Sessions’ former colleagues asserted that the ex-Alabama Senator had a “clear and well-documented” record of “treating all Americans equally under the law” — despite the fact that Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in the 1980’s due his views on race.
Fairooz’s sentencing is scheduled for Friday, July 14, where she and two other Code Pink protesters could face up to a year in jail, according to Jezebel.
The activist asked the judge to scrap the jury’s verdict, and, through her lawyer, insisted that her “brief reflexive burst of noise” wouldn’t be enough to hold a conviction. In a court filing signed by by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall, however, The Huffington Post reported that the government argued that jury members “could reasonably infer the laugh was a deliberate disruption” and “intentional.”
Speaking on the condition on anonymity, jurors told the publication they’d focused more on Fairooz’s conduct after she was taken into custody, as the activist raised a protest sign and shouted as she was escorted out of the room by rookie Officer Katherine Coronado.
“We did not agree that she should have been removed for laughing,” the jury foreperson told The Huffington Post. “She didn’t get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave.”
Prosecutors disagreed, however, arguing that, “Fairooz’s yelling and sign display thereafter disrupted the hearing and clearly exceeded the permissible bound of the tourist test.” The aforementioned test refers to the guideline that requires the U.S. government to prove that a protester is being “more disruptive than those of tourists and others routinely permitted in the Capitol building or grounds.”
Fairooz’s attorney penned a letter ahead of the activist’s sentencing on Tuesday, July 11, asking the judge for a suspended sentence followed by a period of unsupervised probation for “the shortest period of time that the Court sees fit under the circumstances,” according to The Huffington Post.
It’s still unclear what position the government will take on what Fairooz’s punishment should be. As for the activist, she has no qualms about the matter.
“I don’t regret having laughed,” she told Jezebel after her conviction in May. “At the moment, I didn’t think anything was going to happen. 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.”