Convicted of laughing at Sessions? Not exactly

Convicted of laughing at Sessions? Not exactly

Credit Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The story is making the rounds and everyone is outraged. A Code Pink protester was arrested and convicted of laughing during Jeff Sessions confirmation hearings. Is this true? Well sort of and not exactly.

61 year-old Desiree A. Fairooz of Bluemont, Va. was escorted from the room after she laughed when Republican Senator Richard Shelby said that Mr. Sessions’s record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” Fairooz laughed at that description, rightfully so, but here’s where the two sides differ as to what happened next.

According the NY Times

Ms. Fairooz said that, on hearing that, she let out a giggle.

“I just couldn’t hold it,” she said on Wednesday. “It was spontaneous. It was an immediate rejection of what I considered an outright lie or pure ignorance.”

She said when officers came over, she expected to be warned or told to shush and was surprised to be taken into custody.

The feds have a different story

Ms. Fairooz had “let out a loud burst of laughter, followed by a second louder burst of laughter,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in the filing. The police then tried to “quietly escort” Ms. Fairooz from the room, but she “grew loud and more disruptive, eventually halting the confirmation hearing,” the court papers argued.

As she was escorted away, Ms. Fairooz loudly asked, “Why am I being taken out of here?” She also said that the nominee’s “voting record is evil.”

Before the trial, Fairooz was offered a plea deal which she rejected, insisting on a jury trial. Big mistake.

HuffPo interviewed jurors after the verdict and they said they didn’t convict her on the laughing charge but rather her actions after she was being led out of the room.

She did not get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave…

The jurors did say she shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place for laughing

We did not agree that she should have been removed for laughing,” the jury foreperson stated. Some jurors indicated they believed Coronado made a mistake.

“The officer, she was a rookie officer, and I think it was her first time involved in an arrest,” another juror stated. “Make of that what you will.”

They said the rules were so broadly written they had no choice but to convict.

Jurors also said, “If Fairooz hadn’t said anything on her way out… there would have been a different verdict.”

The U.S Capitol Police report stated the protesters “were advised by the committee chair prior to the committee starting that demonstrating in the committee room was an arrestable offense.”

Code Pink are professional protesters. They are well-known on Capitol Hill Police. In an article in The Atlantic from 2015 they describe the relationship as usually cordial and friendly. They quote Code Pink’s national coordinator, Alli McCracken

The signs and t-shirts are a giveaway to Capitol Police officers, who often chat with CodePink members and protesters before the activists head inside. It’s a cordial, friendly relationship, Alli McCracken, CodePink national coordinator, said.

“‘What kind of trouble are you getting into today? Is anybody going to get arrested?’ That’s their standard question after we’ve asked how their kids are doing,” McCracken said.

Sometimes they cross the line and it looks like that happened in this case.

But since Code Pink is a constant presence on The Hill and they are allegedly on good terms with Capitol Hill Police, does their presence and dissent actually do anything positive? Are they thought of as nothing more than goofballs who dress in silly costumes? Are they taken seriously or are they seen as a joke to Congress people? That’s the big question.

 

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