Donald Trump has decided to commute the lifelong prison sentence of Alice Marie Johnson after years-long pleas from multiple activists and even celebrities such as Rihanna and, most particularly, Kim Kardashian.
Trump’s decision to release Johnson comes a week after reality TV queen Kardashian was granted an audience inside the Oval Office with senior adviser Jared Kushner and Trump. Kardashian was also there to discuss prison reform, a subject that is near Kushner’s heart and one of his top priorities within the Trump administration.
Johnson, 62, was sentenced to life without parole despite being a first-time nonviolent drug offender. The grandmother had already served 21 years after being convicted on charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine and attempted possession of cocaine, according to the nonprofit Can-Do.
She is expected to be released from prison in the very near future.
The caveat to this surprising development is: this news comes just days after Trump reportedly announced that Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye, have helped increase the support among African Americans significantly, particularly among Black males, a Reuters Poll suggested. It remains to be seen if Trump demands something significant in return for granting Kardashian West and others their wish to have Johnson freed.
For now, however, all is good in the Johnson household.
“Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades. Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates,” the White House said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, according to Politico.
“While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance,” the statement added.
Kardashian West was in a state of bliss over the news, tweeting, “BEST NEWS EVER!!!!”
Johnson will represent the sixth commutation that Trump has granted since taking office in January 2016, CNN reports, and the second in two months granted by Trump after a celebrity appealed reached out to him. Rolling out previously reported that legendary actor-producer-director Sylvester Stallone petitioned the president to grant a posthumous pardon to the pioneering boxer Jack Johnson, which Trump granted in April.
However, to many people’s chagrin, Trump also provided a presidential pardon to Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a man who has a very entrenched reputation as a rabid racist and unapologetic xenophobe. Trump also released former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, and Kristian Saucier, a Navy sailor who pleaded guilty to an unauthorized possession of classified information.
Trump and Kardashian West met with Trump in the Oval Office last Wednesday after she first reached out to Trump’s daughter Ivanka to help coordinate the fateful meeting in Washington. Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, has been leading a push on prison reform for years. Kushner’s father had served time in a federal prison for white collar crimes related to a political campaign, a revelation that is rich in irony.
As for Johnson and her daughter Tretessa, they are in a state of unbridled elation about the news that the matriarch will finally be able to reunite with her daughter and the rest of the family — in person. Johnson made sure to thank the 45th president for his decision to release her.
“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,” Kardashian West said in a statement after meeting with Trump. “We are optimistic about Ms. Johnson’s future and hopeful that she — and so many like her — will get a second chance at life.”