May 3, 2017
A jury on Wednesday convicted three Code Pink protesters on charges that they disrupted the confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for attorney general — including a Virginia woman who said all she did was break out in laughter. Each could face up to 12 months in prison.
The Virginia woman, Desiree A. Fairooz, was found guilty of the two charges she faced: disorderly conduct and parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds.
The jury also convicted two other activists in the group she was with, Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, who were dressed as Ku Klux Klan members with white hoods and robes and stood up before the Jan. 10 hearing started.
They were acquitted on a count of disorderly conduct but were convicted on two separate charges of parading or demonstrating, Mr. Barry said.
The verdicts were returned shortly after noon Wednesday. A two-day trial in United States Superior Court in Washington ended on Tuesday.
Ms. Fairooz, 61, of Bluemont, Va., said she was “really disappointed.” She said her lawyer, Samuel A. Bogash, would file post-trial motions seeking to set the verdict aside. She said it was too early to discuss an appeal.
“We’ll face that music when we get to that,” Ms. Fairooz said. She added that she was undeterred and would continue to protest.
“I’m so disgusted with so many different aspects of our current government,” she said.
A spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment about the case.
It was early in the hearing when Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, said that Mr. Sessions’s record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented,” Ariel Gold, the campaign director of Code Pink, said on Wednesday.
Ms. Fairooz said that, on hearing that, she let out a giggle.
“I just couldn’t hold it,” she said on Wednesday. “It was spontaneous. It was an immediate rejection of what I considered an outright lie or pure ignorance.”
She said when officers came over, she expected to be warned or told to shush and was surprised to be taken into custody.
Mr. Session’s nomination was contentious, as critics, pointing to past statements he had made, asserted, among other things, that he was a racist.
Ms. Gold, who was at the hearing, described the noise Ms. Fairooz made as a “reflexive gasp” that was no more loud than a cough. “I would barely call it a laugh,” she said.
Ms. Fairooz said the noise was not intended to disrupt the hearing, which had formally been called to order.
“None of us planned to get arrested,” said Ms. Fairooz, who attended the hearing dressed in pink as Lady Liberty and carrying a sign. “We just wanted to be a visible symbol of dissent.”
All three activists pleaded not guilty to the charges, rejecting a plea deal and demanding a trial.