A women's activist who laughed during the confirmation ceremony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions will no longer be tried by the Department of Justice.
Desiree Fairooz, a retired children's librarian and member of the nonprofit organization Code Pink, was arrested on Jan. 10 for letting out a chuckle in response to Republican Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby's comment that Sessions had a "clear and well-documented" history of "treating all Americans equally under the law."
The same day as Sessions' confirmation, The Washington Post released a letter written in 1986 by Coretta Scott King to Congress urging it to block Sessions' bid for federal district court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. King was the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
"Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge," King wrote.
King later explained in her letter that Sessions had disproportionately targeted black people in the 1984 voting fraud investigations against absentee voters. She claimed that he "exhibited an eagerness to convict" three leaders of a civic league that benefited black voters despite evidence that white voters had been guilty of similar charges long before prosecutions began.
According to Bustle, 61-year-old Fairooz loudly protested as she was escorted out of the venue by a newly minted Capitol Police officer. She was later convicted of "disorderly or disruptive conduct."
When she was found guilty in May, she faced a maximum six-month jail sentence. The case was overturned in July by Chief Judge Robert E. Morin of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Morin didn't believe a laugh alone was sufficient grounds for conviction, reports Politico. A retrial was scheduled.
A prosecutor hinted in September that the Department of Justice planned to try Fairooz again after she rejected a plea deal that would have granted her time served for saying she was guilty, reports HuffPost.
On Nov. 6, Fairooz received a "nolle prosequi" from the government, nullifying her trial, which was scheduled for Nov. 13.
"The last 10 months of my life have been somewhat stressful facing trial and the possibility of jail time and a criminal conviction for a chortle so I am greatly relieved that I will not stand trial again," Fairooz said in a statement to HuffPost. "As activists, we cannot be deterred from speaking out against injustice, standing up for our constitutional rights and yes, laughing."
Sources: The Washington Post, Bustle, Politico, HuffPost / Featured Image: Office of the President-elect/greatagain.gov via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters via HuffPost (2)