Judge tosses conviction of woman who laughed during Sessions hearing

A Washington, D.C., judge on Friday tossed out a jury's conviction and called for a new trial for a protester who laughed during Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE' confirmation hearing, saying that the government made improper arguments during the initial trial.

Desiree Fairooz, a Code Pink activist who was originally convicted of disrupting Sessions’ Senate hearing in May, was given a new trial date of Sept. 1, according to D.C. Superior Court documents. 

At the hearing, authorities accused Fairooz of disrupting the proceedings with her laughter. She was convicted of parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds and disorderly conduct.


"Well, I can’t say [I'm] relieved. I’m not happy about [the re-trial] but I guess, in a way, it’s a small kind of a win. It just seems like an absurd waste of tax dollars," Fairooz told NBC News. "I am disappointed, but I guess I should be happy I’m not sitting in jail."

Chief Judge Robert E. Morin of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia tossed out the guilty verdict because the government had argued that the laugh itself was enough to warrant it.

Morin said laughter "would not be sufficient" to submit the case to the jury, and said the government hadn't made clear before the trial that it intended to make that argument, according to The Huffington Post.

Fairooz maintained that when Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Sessions’ record of "treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented" early in the hearing, she couldn't help but laugh. 

"I just couldn’t hold it," she told The New York Times. "It was spontaneous. It was an immediate rejection of what I considered an outright lie or pure ignorance."

Fairooz’s attorney had called for the conviction to be tossed.

"Ms. Fairooz’s brief reflexive burst of noise, be it laughter or an audible gasp, clearly cannot sustain a conviction for either of the counts in the information," defense lawyer Sam Bogash wrote in a court filing.

"So the only other basis for her conviction to anything are her statements after the U.S. Capitol Police arrested her for that laughing. Those statements merely expressed surprise at being arrested."

Updated: 3:47 p.m.