(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘VOX’ NEWS SITE)
The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at Jeff Sessions
As attorney general, Jeff Sessions now heads the Justice Department.
It is hard to believe this is happening, but it’s real: The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at now–Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year.
According to Ryan Reilly at HuffPost, Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz was arrested in January after she laughed at a claim from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) that Sessions’s history of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”
Sessions, in fact, has a long history of opposing the equal treatment of all Americans under the law. He has repeatedly criticized the historic Voting Rights Act. He voted against hate crime legislation that protected LGBTQ people, arguing, “Today, I’m not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.” And his nomination for a position as a federal judge was rejected in the 1980s after he was accused of making racist remarks, including a supposed joke that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.”
Given this history, Fairooz laughed at Shelby’s claim.
But federal prosecutors have pushed forward with the case against Fairooz. As Reilly reported, prosecutors argue that “the laugh amounted to willful ‘disorderly and disruptive conduct’ intended to ‘impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct’ of congressional proceedings.” In court, they have tried to emphasize that the laugh was extraordinarily disruptive, with a US Capitol Police officer claiming that Fairooz laughed “very loudly” and people in the hearings turned around when they heard it.
Fairooz’s defense, meanwhile, has argued that her laughter was a reflex and not meant to disrupt the hearings. Fairooz was also in the back of the room, and her laughter had no noticeable impact, based on video of the hearings, on Shelby’s introductory speech for Sessions.
The trial will continue at the Superior Court in DC this week. If convicted, Fairooz faces a fine up to $500 and up to six months’ imprisonment for the laugh-related charge. She is also charged with another misdemeanor for “allegedly parading, demonstrating or picketing within a Capitol, evidently for her actions after she was being escorted from the room,” Reilly reported.
Fairooz has a history of disruptive protests. During protests over the Iraq War, she put fake blood on her hands and confronted then–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
This time, however, Fairooz claims she was not trying to be disruptive — but merely laughing.
These details are all salient for the legal case, but it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture here: The federal government is literally prosecuting someone for laughing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Justice Department — which Sessions now leads as attorney general — is doing the prosecuting when the laughter was directed at its leader. At the very least, it’s not a good look for the top law enforcement agency in the country.
Watch: Robert Reich argues that Jeff Sessions needs to resign
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