Seriously. This happened.
Three women – including one who said her only crime was laughing – were convicted Wednesday on charges of disrupting the confirmation hearing of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The women were part of activist group Code Pink and were protesting Sessions’ Jan. 10 Senate confirmation hearing. Two of the women, Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, appeared at the Washington, D.C. hearing dressed as Ku Klux Klan members. They were acquitted on a count of disorderly conduct but convicted on two separate charges of parading or demonstrating, the New York Times reported.
A third woman, Desiree Fairooz of Virginia, was found guilty of disorderly conduct and parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds.
Each faces up to 12 months in prison.
Fairooz, who wore a pink Lady Liberty costume to the Sessions’ hearings, maintained all she did during the testimony was laugh. The 61-year-old woman previously declined to accept a plea bargain from prosecutors, opting to move ahead with the case.
Fairooz has protested at several congressional hearings, and likely knows the difference between being intentionally disruptive and respectful of decorum. “Why am I being taken out of here?” she asked as she was arrested. “I was going to be quiet, and now you’re going to have me arrested? For what?”
Another protester escorted out of Sessions hearing. Her original offense appeared to be simply laughing. pic.twitter.com/p6lWzBVFRW
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) January 10, 2017
During Fairooz’s trial on Monday, fellow Code Pink activist Ariel Gold testified that Fairooz was reflexively laughing in response to Sessions’s claims, and that she was “appalled” when Fairooz was arrested.
Fairooz’s defense, meanwhile, has argued that her laughter was a reflex and not meant to disrupt the hearings. Fairooz was also in the back of the room, and her laughter had no noticeable impact, based on video of the hearings, on Shelby’s introductory speech for Sessions.
In court, federal officers tried to emphasize that the laugh was extraordinarily disruptive, with a US Capitol Police officer claiming that Fairooz laughed “very loudly” and people in the hearings turned around when they heard it.
Justice Department attorneys claimed during the trial that laughter was enough to merit a criminal charge against Fairooz, asserting that “heads turned around” when Fairooz let out what they characterized as a “scoff,” “outburst” or “burst” of laughter. But they mostly focused on how Fairooz acted after she was confronted by the police officers.
If Fairooz hadn’t said anything on her way out, several jurors said, there would have been a different verdict.
“Ms. Fairooz’s comments as she was being escorted out caused the session to stop,” the jury foreperson said. “It disrupted the session.”
That is not the point. She was being escorted out because she laughed. I just can’t…
Welcome to the world of Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice.