Trump Grants Clemency To 63-Year-Old Woman After Meeting Kim Kardashian West

Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic.
President Donald Trump granted clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, one of many people of color behind bars for life because of a nonviolent drug offense, Axios reported. The commutation of her sentence comes just days after the president met with Kim Kardashian West, a Johnson supporter, at the White House to discuss prison reform.
Johnson is a 63-year-old woman from Tennessee who was sentenced to life in prison for a first-time drug offense.
In 1993, she was arrested after working with a group of people who transported cocaine. The mother of four has said her involvement stemmed from hitting rock bottom in her personal life: In the early 1990s, she had gone through a divorce, a bankruptcy that led her to lose her house, and her youngest son was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Advertisement
Johnson alleges she never actually sold or dealt drugs, and that her role in the group was that of a "telephone mule" who passed messages along. Nevertheless, she was convicted of conspiracy to sell cocaine and money laundering, which led to a sentence of life plus 25 years in federal prison — despite it being her first offense.
Mass incarceration is one the United States's most urgent problems, particularly for people of color: America makes up about 5% of the global population but has about 21% of the world’s prisoners. For example, Black and white people use drugs at a similar rate, but the imprisonment rate for Black folks is more than five times the rate of white people.
Kardashian West took special interest in Johnson's case back in October. Since then, she recruited her lawyer Shawn Holley to help Johnson's clemency campaign and met with Trump's son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner to discuss the possibility of a pardon. After meeting the president in late May, Kardashian West tweeted: "I would like to thank President Trump for his time this afternoon. It is our hope that the President will grant clemency to Ms. Alice Marie Johnson who is serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense."
She added, "We are optimistic about Ms. Johnson’s future and hopeful that she —and so many like her — will get a second chance at life."
Advertisement
President Barack Obama pardoned 231 individuals, many who had similar drug-related charges to those of Johnson's, in December 2016. It's unclear why she wasn't in the group.
So far, Trump has issued a half dozen pardons, including to Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff known for violating the civil rights of people of color who was convicted of contempt of the court last year; Irve Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007; and conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations back in 2014.
On Twitter, Kardashian West celebrated the commutation, writing: "So grateful to @realDonaldTrump, Jared Kushner & to everyone who has showed compassion & contributed countless hours to this important moment for Ms. Alice Marie Johnson. Her commutation is inspirational & gives hope to so many others who are also deserving of a second chance."
She added: "I hope to continue this important work by working together with organizations who have been fighting this fight for much longer than I have and deserve the recognition."
In a statement provided to Refinery29, Johnson's attorney Brittany K. Barnett said: "Justice has been served today, and it’s long overdue. Alice has more than paid her debt to society by serving over 21 years of a life-without-parole sentence as a nonviolent drug offender. Life in prison without the possibility of parole screams that a person is beyond hope, beyond redemption. And in Alice’s case, it is a punishment that absolutely did not fit the crime."
She continued, "President Trump saved Alice Johnson’s life today. We are extremely grateful and hope the President continues to use his clemency power to save lives."
This story was originally published at 12:20 p.m. It has since been updated to include a statement from Alice Marie Johnson's attorney.
Advertisement

More from US News

Watch

R29 Original Series