Nov 09

Desiree Fairooz’ Conviction Overturned For Disrupting U.S. Senate Hearing

Desiree Anita Fairooz’ charges resulting from her disruption of the U.S. Senate’s confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General were dismissed on November 6, 2017, after the prosecution notified the judge it would not retry her.

Desiree Anita Fairooz aka Desiree Ali-Fairooz being arrested on January 10, 2017 (Ryan J. Reilly)

Desiree Anita Fairooz aka Desiree Ali-Fairooz being arrested on January 10, 2017 (Ryan J. Reilly)

On January 10, 2017 Fairooz, aka Desiree Ali-Fairooz, laughed out loud during the U.S. Senate’s confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination for U.S. Attorney General by President-elect Donald Trump. She was asked to leave the room. Instead of doing so she caused a ruckus, and she was arrested.

Fairooz, 61, is associated with the group Code Pink, and she was wearing a Code Pink hat when she was arrested.

Fairooz was charged on January 19, 2017 with two counts of misdemeanor “unlawful conduct on the capitol grounds” in Washington D.C.: Count one was for engaging in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” with the intent to disrupt congressional proceedings; and, Count two was for parading, demonstrating or picketing on the grounds of the Capitol.

She pled not guilty when she was arraigned on January 25, 2017, and she was released on bond.

During Fairooz’ jury trial in the Washington D. C. Superior Court her defense was she had the right to object to her arrest for laughing out loud, so she hadn’t done anything illegal.

During its closing argument the prosecution told the jury her laughing during the hearing was sufficient to find her guilty — even without considering the loud disruption she caused when asked to leave and then while being arrested.

The jury convicted Fairooz on May 3, 2017. Her sentencing was scheduled for July 14.

On June 12, 2017 Fairooz filed the “Defendant’s Motion for Judgement of Acquittal.” The motion argued: “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. 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.”

On July 14, 2017 Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin granted Fairooz’ motion and ordered a new trial on both counts. Morin’s Order stated: “The court is concerned about the government’s theory” that Fairooz’ laughter alone was sufficient to constitute commission of the crime. His Order also stated: “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. 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.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office notified Judge Morin on September 1, 2017 that Fairooz rejected a plea offer and it intended to retry her.

Fairooz’ retrial was scheduled to begin November 13, 2017.

On November 6, 2017 the prosecution filed the “Government’s Notice of Nolle Prosequi” requesting dismissal of the charges against Fairooz. Judge Morin granted the motion the same day.

Two other Code Pink members tried at the same time as Fairooz — Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi — were convicted by the jury of two misdemeanor counts related to their disruptive conduct during Sessions’ hearing.* Barry and Bianchi were dressed as Ku Klux Klan members during the hearing. They were acquitted of one disruption count because their conduct took place before the hearing began. On July 14, 2017 Judge Morin denied their motion for acquittal, and sentenced Barry and Bianchi to ten days in jail, suspended conditional on their successful completion of six months supervised probation, and they were both fined $100.

Endnote: * Barry and Bianchi were convicted of Count 2: Unlawful Conduct on Capitol Grounds, and Count 3: Parading on Capitol Grounds.

November 8, 2017
By Hans Sherrer
Justice Denied

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