Judge tosses out jury conviction of protester who laughed at Jeff Sessions
A jury delivered a guilty verdict against Fairooz in May after prosecutors argued that “laughter is enough” to merit criminal charges of disorderly and disruptive conduct, and that Fairooz’s statements during her arrest in January amounted to “parading, demonstrating, or picketing within the Capitol.”
Chief Judge Robert E. Morin of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia called the government’s theory about laughter being sufficient for criminal charges “disconcerting.”
Morin tossed out the jury verdict and ordered a new trial, setting a court date for September 1.
“At the time of my arrest, we were seated, the hearing had begun, and Senator Richard Shelby [R-Alabama] was tasked with making compliments about Senator Sessions, and one of them seemed ridiculous to me and I involuntarily laughed,” Fairooz told RT in May.
Her laughter was prompted by Shelby’s assertion that Sessions had a “clear and well-documented” history of “treating all Americans equally under the law.” In 1986, Sessions had been denied a federal justice post because of a history of racially charged remarks.
At the hearing, Fairooz was with the Code Pink protest group, holding up signs critical of Sessions.
When a police officer approached her following the laughter, Fairooz told RT that she “expected her to say, ‘Ma’am, please lower your voice,’” but instead the officer, later joined by others, began to remove Fairooz from the hearing.
“Why am I being taken out of here?” she asked as she was being arrested. “This man is pure evil. Don’t vote for Sessions. I was going to be quiet, and now you’re going to have me arrested? For what?”
“She did not merely laugh,” Paschall wrote. “Just as a defendant cannot resist arrest when the arrest is unlawful, a defendant should not be able to disrupt a hearing before Congress based on her opinion that police action was unlawful.”
Fairooz’s attorney had argued that she had the right to object to her arrest as she was being taken out of the room.
Fairooz is a well-known face on Capitol Hill, having participated in many protests.
In 2007, she was arrested after she waved blood-colored hands in then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s face at a congressional hearing and shouted, “War criminal!” in protest against the US invasion of Iraq.