Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz was convicted in May of disrupting Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing. Fairooz was one of three Code Pink activists arrested that day but her ejection from the room by police caused the biggest disruption. Friday, a judge tossed out her conviction and ordered that she be re-tried. From NBC News:
Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz, 61, was found guilty of misdemeanor charges, including disrupting Congress and parading/demonstrating in May and was told she faced up to six months in jail.
But on Friday, the judge said he took issue with the conviction and scheduled a new trial for September, Fairooz told NBC News.
“Well, I can’t say relieved. I’m not happy about [the re-trial] but I guess, in a way, it’s a small kind of a win. It just seems like an absurd waste of tax dollars,” Fairooz said. “I am disappointed, but I guess I should be happy I’m not sitting in jail.”
According to HuffPost, Judge Robert E. Morin took issue with the prosecutor’s claim during closing arguments that Fairooz’s initial outburst was enough to convict her:
Morin said it was “disconcerting” that the government made the case in closing arguments that the laughter in and of itself was sufficient.
“The court is concerned about the government’s theory,” Morin said. He said the laughter “would not be sufficient” to submit the case to the jury, and said the government hadn’t made clear before the trial that it intended to make that argument.
What’s frustrating here is that there is evidence Fairooz was not convicted because of her initial outburst but because of the subsequent outburst. In fact, that’s what several of the jurors told HuffPost months ago:
Several jurors who spoke with HuffPost after the verdict emphasized that they were focused on Fairooz’s actions after a rookie Capitol Police officer approached Fairooz when she laughed at Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) claim that Sessions had a clear, well-documented and “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law.” A group of jurors spoke to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity.
“She did not get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave,” the jury foreperson said.
As you can see in this clip, Fairooz’s outburst as she was leaving the chamber did bring the hearing to a halt:
Fairooz’s attorneys have argued that she was merely responding to being arrested and that her outburst as she was leaving the room shouldn’t count against her. But as HuffPost points out, she was yelling about Jeff Sessions being “pure evil” on the way out:
While some of Fairooz’s statements as she was being arrested ― like “Why am I being taken out of here?” ― objected to her treatment, others, like “This man is evil, pure evil,” were more political in nature, and perhaps more likely to support a conviction.
Kimberly Paschall, an attorney for the government, argued during a court hearing on Friday that “Ms. Fairooz was not merely responding” to her arrest. “She wasn’t just merely responding, she was voicing an opinion,” Paschall said.
It appears to me that Judge Morin tossed the case because of something that didn’t happen (conviction based on her initial outburst alone). And since the evidence shows she was screaming Jeff Sessions was “evil” as she was removed, the claim this was merely a response to her arrest doesn’t hold up. Hopefully, jurors at trial #2 will reach the same conclusion as those at trial #1.