WASHINGTON – District of Columbia prosecutors have decided to give up pursing a criminal case against an activist who was arrested after laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate confirmation hearing in January.
The decision was quietly entered into the record on Monday, nearly four months after the chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court threw out a May jury conviction for Desiree Fairooz on two misdemeanor charges of unlawful conduct on Capitol grounds.
A retrial had been set for November for the 61-year-old woman, who faced up to six months in jail.
But prosecutors dropped the case one week ahead of the planned court date. "The U.S. Attorney's Office typically does not discuss charging decisions, and has no comment on the decision to dismiss this particular case," according to a statement issued by the office's spokesman, Bill Miller.
Fairooz could not be reached on Tuesday. Her attorney, Samuel Bogash, did not return calls. Fairooz had earlier described the case as a waste of time and a dangerous precedent for free speech.
Fairooz had attended Sessions's Jan. 10 confirmation hearing along with about two dozen members from Code Pink, a progressive activist group that regularly protests at Congress. Fairooz laughed moments after Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) stated that Sessions' record of "treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented."
Prosecutors described Fairooz's outburst – actually two – this way: Fairooz "let out aloud [sic] burst of laughter, followed by a second louder burst of laughter," according to a government filing. The document says that Fairooz "grew loud and more disruptive" as police led her out of the Kennedy Caucus Room, "eventually halting the confirmation hearing."
Jurors who convicted Fairooz in May told the Huffington Post that they based their decision on the defendant's outburst after she had laughed. Her group's co-founder said there would have been no outburst had police not wrongfully arrested her for laughing.
Chief Judge E. Robert Morin of District of Columbia Superior Court ruled in July that the jury that convicted Fairooz overstepped. The Huffington Post said Morin ruled that prosecutors improperly argued that laughter alone was enough for a conviction.