Justice Department lawyers claim laughing at Jeff Sessions is a criminal act

A lawyer says someone who laughed when Sessions was defending his civil rights history was warned to be quiet

By Matthew Rozsa

Published May 3, 2017 2:33PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Less than three months after Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was silenced from criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions because — in the now-infamous words of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — "she persisted" in reading a letter by Coretta Scott King about his racist past, yet another woman is being told that it is simply wrong to speak out too vehemently against Sessions' misdeeds.

Justice Department lawyers David Stier and Jason Covert made this argument in their case against Desiree Fairooz, who along with fellow protesters Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi is on trial for disrupting Sessions' confirmation hearing in January, according to a report by The Huffington Post. Fairooz was arrested after she laughed at Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama described Sessions as having an "extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law."

According to Stier, Fairooz's "loud bursts of laughter" was disruptive and "a number of heads turned around because it was loud." As a result, Stier insists that "I would submit that laughter is enough, standing alone" is enough to justify a criminal charge against her. He later added that when Fairooz was removed from the room she had said that she was "going to be quiet" until her removal, but "Ms. Fairooz decided not to be quiet."

Covert made similar claims in his rebuttal to the defense, arguing that Fairooz had been "given multiple warnings" prior to emitting what was variously described as a "scoff" and "burst of laughter." In Covert's argument, Fairooz's laughter can be described as disruptive because for "the other people around her, it wasn’t insignificant."



Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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