Charges Dropped Against Woman Who Laughed During Jeff Sessions Hearing
Protester Desiree Ali-Fairooz, center, holds a sign at the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to become attorney general on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 10, 2017.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file
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All charges have been dropped against an activist who audibly scoffed during Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate confirmation hearing in January.
On Monday afternoon, District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu filed a notice of nolle prosequi — a formal notice of abandonment by a prosecutor or plaintiff — in the case against Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz.
In a statement, Code Pink said it "celebrates" the Justice Department's decision to drop the case against Fairooz.
"The prosecution of Desiree, including one jury trial, was a waste of time and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars. It was part the larger effort currently being made to crack down on activists. From the January 20th inauguration protests, the Department of Justice is prosecuting 200 people on multiple felony charges," the statement reads.
The statement added that Code Pink hopes the Justice Department will "scale back" its prosecution of activists and that others will be encouraged to protest in both Congress and the streets.
Fairooz was arrested in January during the hearing's opening statements and faced misdemeanor charges, including disrupting Congress and parading/demonstrating.
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As Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., testified during his opening statement that Sessions’ record of "treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented," Fairooz allegedly let out a laugh.
“In response to this statement, Defendant Fairooz ... let out aloud [sic] burst of laughter, followed by a second louder burst of laughter,” court documents read.
Other Code Pink activists who were with Fairooz at the hearing said the noise was reflexive and quieter than a cough.
In May, a jury found Fairooz guilty of the criminal misdemeanor charges. She faced being sentenced to up to six months in jail.
When sentencing rolled around in July, however, the judge took issue with the conviction based on laughter alone, threw it out and scheduled a new trial for September, which was then delayed until November.
“This is supposed to be a democracy for the people, and if we’re not involved, we’re not going to have a democracy," she said
Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, Code Pink activists who were also removed from Sessions' hearing for protesting, had their 10-day jail sentences suspended in July after agreeing to complete six months of supervised probation, according to the U.S. Attorney's spokesman William Miller.
Miller declined to comment on the case on behalf of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. Fairooz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kalhan Rosenblatt is a reporter for NBC News, based in New York.