A 61-year-old woman may land in jail because she laughed during Jeff Sessions’s confirmation hearing. Desiree Fairooz, a Code Pink activist, was arrested in January when she laughed after hearing Senator Richard Shelby say that Sessions’s record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”
Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 over allegations that he made racist remarks, and he has criticized federal civil-rights enforcement efforts. He opposed federal legislation to extend hate-crime laws to cover LGBT people and argued passionately against the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. Sessions also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act twice.
In light of this, Sessions’s critics think Fairooz’s outburst is understandable, but in court on Tuesday a Justice Department lawyer argued that her “loud bursts of laughter” disrupted congressional proceedings, and thus warranted a criminal charge.
“A number of heads turned around because it was loud,” argued attorney David Stier, according to the Huffington Post. Fairooz’s laughter is audible in this C-SPAN clip, but Shelby keeps reading his statement:
Stier said he “would submit that laughter is enough, standing alone” to justify the charges, but Fairooz also made an outburst and waved a sign as she was being escorted out of the room by U.S. Capitol Police. “I was going to be quiet and now you’re going to have me arrested?” she said. “For what? For what? He said something ridiculous. [Sessions’] voting record is evil.”
Fairooz is on trial with fellow Code Pink members Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, who dressed up as Ku Klux Klan members and pretended to support Sessions. Bianchi, who is representing himself, said he only protested before the hearing began because he didn’t want to be arrested. Barry’s attorney said the protestors created a “spectacle,” but didn’t disrupt the proceedings. All three were charged with disorderly conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and six months in prison.
“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,” Fairooz said in a statement on Monday.
In another administration the attorney general might be worried about how it looks to have Justice Department lawyers prosecuting a woman for laughing at their boss. Somehow, we doubt President Trump is going to call out Sessions for appearing to be thin-skinned.