A woman who was charged with disorderly conduct for laughing during the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been found guilty and could face up to a year in prison.
Desiree Fairooz has been convicted for laughing early in Mr Sessions' confirmation hearing after Alabama Senator Richard Shelby said that the future attorney general's record of "treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well documented." She has been convicted alongside two other protesters who had donned Ku Klux Klan costumes during the confirmation. Those two protesters could also face up to a year in prison.
The conviction comes after a two-day trial in the United States Superior Court in Washington. Ms Fairooz told the New York Times that she is "really disappointed" and that her lawyer are planning on filing post-trial motions to have the verdict cast aside. It is too early to discuss an appeal she says.
All three protesters are connected to Code Pink, a women's rights activist organisation.
“I felt it was my responsibility as a citizen to dissent at the confirmation hearing of Senator Jeff Sessions, a man who professes anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT policies, who has voted against several civil rights measures and who jokes about the white supremacist terrorist group the Ku Klux Klan,” Ms Fairooz said in a statement released before the verdict came in.
Prosecutors said they brought the charges because the laugh was an attempt to “impede, disrupt, and disturb orderly conduct” of the confirmation hearing.
Mr Sessions was a controversial pick to become the nation’s leading law enforcement official and his confirmation path was wrought with contentious moments. The former senator from Alabama was repeatedly accused of expressing racist views in the past — a history of racist accusations that includes a 1980s ad aired by Mr Shelby himself that accused him of calling the KKK “good ole boys.”
During his confirmation, Mr Sessions saw rare opposition from a fellow sitting senator, New Jersey’s Corey Booker, who testified boldly against him during his hearings saying that his civil rights record disqualified him from the attorney general post. Mr Booker was joined by civil rights legend Representative John Lewis in voicing concerns about Mr Sessions during those hearings.
Later in the confirmation process, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren refocused national attention on Mr Sessions’ alleged racism when she was silenced by Republican leadership as she read, on the Senate floor, a 1986 letter Coretta Scott King wrote while Mr Sessions was up for a federal judgeship accusing him of using public office to intimidate black voters.