CLAIM

Code Pink member Desiree Fairooz was prosecuted for disorderly conduct after she laughed during Attorney General Jeff Sessions's confirmation hearing.

TRUE

RATING

TRUE

ORIGIN

A jury has returned a verdict of guilty in the case of 61-year-old Desiree Fairooz of Bluemont, Virginia, who was arrested in the U.S. Capitol Building after laughing out loud during the introduction of Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions at the latter’s Senate confirmation hearing on 10 January 2017. She was prosecuted on charges of disorderly conduct and parading or demonstrating on capitol grounds, both misdemeanors.  

Fairooz was found guilty on both counts, the New York Times reported, although jurors who spoke anonymously to Huffington Post said it was her behavior when asked to leave, not her laughter, that resulted in the conviction. She faces up to a year in prison.

It was not the first time that the longtime member of the activist group Code Pink was arrested for disturbing the peace in Washington, D.C. She was previously jailed for disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer in October 2007 after covering her hands with fake blood and disrupting a Congressional hearing attended by then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among other incidents.

The outburst resulting in Fairooz’s more recent arrest came in response to Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Alabama) introductory remarks praising Jeff Sessions’s “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law.” Her laughter can be heard at around the :45 mark of the CSPAN clip below; Fairooz can be seen being ushered out of the room by Capitol Police near the end:


SHELBY: “During the past twenty years that I have served with Jeff in the Senate, I have had the opportunity to know him well – not just as a skilled attorney with an accomplished record as a prosecutor and legislator, but as a man of extraordinary character. I have the highest regard not only for his intellect, but for his integrity. Unfortunately, since the announcement of his nomination, Jeff’s political opponents have attacked his character with baseless and tired allegations. But, in reality, Jeff’s extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented. [OFF-CAMERA LAUGHTER] Throughout his decades of public service, including his impressive tenure on this committee, Jeff’s commitment to upholding the rule of law is unparalleled. The integrity, humility, and gravity with which Jeff will approach the office of Attorney General is unquestionable. I have no doubt that he will apply the law with the impartiality required of the job.”

Fairooz, who was accompanied by two other Code Pink protesters (also arrested) wearing Ku Klux Klan costumes, explained her actions in a statement released by Code Pink:

I felt it was my responsibility as a citizen to dissent at the confirmation hearing of Senator Jeff Sessions, a man who professes anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT policies, who has voted against several civil rights measures and who jokes about the white supremacist terrorist group the Ku Klux Klan.

The Washington Post has noted that Sessions is not only a hard-liner on illegal immigration, but has even argued that the pace of legal immigration ought to be slowed; LGBTQ activist groups have noted that as a senator, Sessions consistently voted against legislation to protect or even recognize civil rights for gay people; he voted against key civil rights laws, according to the NAACP; and he has, in fact, publicly joked about the KKK.

“A victory for the defendants in this trial will be a victory for the people and the values most Americans hold dear,” Code Pink said in a statement prior to the trial. 

Sources:

Goodman, Amy.   “CODEPINK Activist Barred from Capitol After Calling Rice ‘War Criminal.'”
   Democracy Now!   2 November 2007.

Lee, Michelle Ye Hee.   “Jeff Sessions’s Comments on Race: For the Record.”
   The Washington Post.   2 December 2016.

Lopez, German.   “The US Department of Justice is Literally Prosecuting a Woman for Laughing at Jeff Sessions.”
   Vox.   2 May 2017.

Mele, Christopher.   “Jury Convicts Protester Who Laughed at Sessions Hearing.”
   The New York Times.   3 May 2017.

Phillips, Amber.   “10 Things to Know About Sen. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s Pick for Attorney General.”
   The Washington Post.   10 January 2017.

Reilly, Ryan J.   “Jury Convicts Woman Who Laughed At Jeff Sessions During Senate Hearing.”
   Huffington Post.   3 May 2017.

Sopelsa, Brooke.   “Sessions Confirmation as Attorney General Riles LGBTQ Advocates.”
   NBC News.   9 February 2017.

NAACP.   “Jeff Sessions’ Confirmation Vote to Be AG in Senate Judiciary Committee to Be Held Tomorrow.”
   30 January 2017.