As It Happens

This woman may go to jail for laughing at U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

A longtime activist has been found guilty of disorderly conduct and could face a year in jail for laughing during U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing.
Desiree Fairooz, centre, and her fellow CodePink activists hold signs at the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

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Desiree Fairooz been found guilty of charges including disorderly conduct and could face a year in prison after she laughed during U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate confirmation hearing.

The longtime activist was sitting in the back of the room sporting a pink Lady Liberty costume when Republican Senator Richard Shelby said Sessions had a record of "treating all Americans equally under the law."

"I thought that laughable, literally," Fairooz told As It Happens host Carol Off. "It just seemed so ridiculous."

She let out what she called "an involuntary giggle" for which she was escorted from the room by Capitol Police and arrested.

"If anything I may have deserved a gentle warning, not an ejection and certainly not an arrest. It's ridiculous that I was convicted on that charge," she said.

'A loud burst of laughter'

The U.S Attorney's Office painted a different picture in its court filings, saying Fairooz "let out a loud burst of laughter, followed by a second louder burst of laughter."

When police tried to "quietly escort" her from the room, she "grew loud and more disruptive, eventually halting the confirmation hearing," the prosecutors wrote.

During her arrest, which was captured on film by HuffPost, Fairooz shouted: "Why am I being taken out of here? This man is evil, pure evil!"

"That was after they slapped their hands on me, after they chose to arrest me for the laugh," Fairooz said.

Controversial history 

Fairooz, a longtime activist, was arrested and convicted alongside two other members of the CodePink feminist activist organization who wore Ku Klux Klan costumes during the confirmation. All three will be sentenced June 21, and could face $2,000 fines, a year behind bars, or both.

A protester is escorted away by Capitol Hill Police officers during the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing Jeff Sessions. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

The group was one of many organizations protesting Sessions' confirmation. 

The former Alabama Senator was denied a federal judge position in the 1980s over allegations he made racist remarks, including referring to black government officials with racial slurs, which he denies. 

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a controversial pick for Donald Trump's cabinet. ( Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

He has repeatedly spoken out against the Voting Rights Act, and he voted against LGBT hate crime legislation, arguing: "Today, I'm not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don't see it."

"We wanted to go as a group to voice our dissent to the nomination," Fairooz said. "We thought it was a very powerful position for which he did not deserve to be awarded."

Fairooz made headlines once before when she put fake blood on her hands and confronted then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to protest the Iraq war.

Desiree Fairooz jumps up in front of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before Rice testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill on Oct. 24, 2007. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

She says she's been arrested 10 times for her protests, but has no intention of stopping.

"For too many years myself and others have ignored what is going on on Capitol Hill and every day it seems like it gets worse and worse and worse, and the more people are apathetic, the more we will be mistreated, the more often our rights will be trampled on," she said.

"So I feel that's my responsibility, if I want to be part of a democracy, then I have to participate, and this is one way to do that."