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Prosecutors drop criminal case against activist arrested after laughing at Sessions

Members of Code Pink protest before U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a Senate Judiciary oversight hearing on the Justice Department on Capitol Hill, on Oct. 18. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

District prosecutors have decided to give up pursuing a criminal case against an activist who was arrested after laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Senate confirmation hearing in January.

The decision was quietly entered into the record Monday, nearly four months after the chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court threw out a jury conviction for Desiree Fairooz in May on two misdemeanor charges of unlawful conduct on Capitol grounds.

A retrial was set for November for the 61-year-old woman, who could have 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.

Samuel A. Bogash, Fairooz’s attorney, described his client as “happy and relieved.”

Bogash said that the dropped charges came as a surprise and that he was given no explanation. He said he had talked to the prosecutor on Friday to prepare for the upcoming trial.

“I would have liked to have an outright victory and a not-guilty verdict,” he said. But he added, “My client is no longer facing criminal prosecution, and that’s a win for her.”

Fairooz had attended Sessions’s confirmation hearing on Jan. 10 along with about two dozen members from Code Pink, a progressive activist group that regularly protests at Congress. Fairooz laughed moments after Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) stated that Sessions’s record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”

Judge throws out verdict against woman who laughed at attorney general

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 HuffPost 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 Robert E. Morin ruled in July that the jury that convicted Fairooz overstepped. HuffPost reported that Morin ruled that prosecutors improperly argued that laughter alone was enough for a conviction.

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