President Trump grants clemency to Alice Marie Johnson after Kim Kardashian’s visit
President Trump has granted clemency to Alice Marie Johnson a week after Kim Kardashian visited the White House to discuss prison reform and petition for her pardoning. Johnson is expected to be released from prison soon, CNN reports. This marks Trump’s sixth act of clemency since taking office.
Kardashian tweeted her excitement over the news this afternoon. “BEST NEWS EVER!!!” she posted.
BEST NEWS EVER!!!! ?????? https://t.co/JUbpbE1Bk0
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) June 6, 2018
Johnson was serving a life sentence.
The 63-year-old great-grandmother was given a life sentence in prison for a nonviolent drug-related crime and was not eligible for parole.
Johnson was convicted in 1996 on eight criminal counts stemming from a Memphis-based cocaine trafficking operation involving more than a dozen people. She was sentenced to life in prison in 1997. Today, she’s spent more than two decades behind bars.
As one of Johnson’s lawyers, Brittany Barnett, told The Daily Mail, “The message to the president is that Alice Johnson, the 21 years she has been in prison, represents a punishment that more than pays her debt to society and that to keep her prison the rest of her life is morally and economically unjustifiable.”
Johnson became “involved in drug trafficking” during a difficult period in her life.
“Johnson became “involved in drug trafficking as a way to make ends meet following a particularly rough period in her life: She lost her job at FedEx, where she had worked for 10 years, due to a gambling addiction; she got divorced; and then her youngest son died in a motorcycle accident,” Mic reports.
According to Johnson, this series of events led her become involved with drugs.
Memphis attorney Michael Scholl, who filed the latest court documents appealing for Johnson’s sentence reduction, said she wasn’t the leader of the cocaine operation. Instead, Bustle reports, “Johnson gradually became involved in a drug trafficking operation in Memphis, Tennessee. She says that she never brokered any deals or handled drugs, but was responsible for relaying coded messages over the phone.”
The meeting with Trump, which was initially reported by @VanityFair, marks the culmination of months of @KimKardashian West's behind-the-scenes efforts to free #AliceMarieJohnson. pic.twitter.com/EyGwQ2vct1https://t.co/We2L0m6bFV
— Mic (@mic) May 30, 2018
This was Johnson’s first offense, but she was given a life sentence without the chance of parole.
Even though her arrest in 1993 was her first offense, Johnson received a life sentence, which she began serving in 1996. During the trial ten of her co-defendants testified against her in exchange for a reduced or dropped charges, Mic reports. Johnson, however, did not receive the same mercy, despite having not previous drug charges.
Johnson’s children have long petitioned for her release.
Speaking in a video for Mic, Johnson’s daughter, Tretessa, said of her mother, “She’s made some serious mistakes in her life, but she is not this monster. I mean, she’s really turned a very negative situation to as positive of a situation as she can.”
Of Kardashian’s involvement in the situation, Tretessa told BBC News, “We are praying for mercy in my mom’s case… that this nightmare is finally coming to an end.”
Johnson’s family and supporters say she’s a “model inmate” who’s active in “many programmes including working at the prison hospice,” BBC News reports.
Amy Povah, who founded the organization CAN-DO Clemency, started advocating for Johnson in 2014, and even collected a “letter of support from the retired warden of Johnson’s prison” on her character, which will be given to Trump.
Povah told BBC News that Johnson has “always stood out to me as being exceptional. She’s not bitter or angry, she’s this ray of sunshine.”
Johnson submitted an application for clemency to the Obama Administration on three occasions.
President Obama pardoned 231 individuals in December 2016, “many of whom had similar drug-related charges,” Mic reports, but Johnson was not one of them. According to BBC News, Johnson “fit all of the criteria” for the former president’s clemency project, but was rejected just days before Obama’s term ended. The reason why is unclear.
Johnson told Mic, “When the criteria came out for clemency, I thought for sure—in fact, I was certain that I’d met and exceeded all of the criteria.”
Kardashian has hired a new team of lawyers on behalf of Johnson.
Back in November, Kardashian’s Los Angeles-based attorney, Shawn Holley, told New York Daily News, “Kim asked me several weeks ago how she could help Alice Johnson in her fight for justice. We then began corresponding with Alice and her team of lawyers.”
Holley is a renowned celebrity attorney whose past clients include O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, and Lindsay Lohan, according to TMZ.
Kardashian visited the White House on Johnson’s birthday.