Celebrities lobbying the White House is nothing new, but it feels a little different when it’s a reality t.v. star who originally became famous thanks to a sex tape. In any case, Kim Kardashian headed to Washington D.C. last week to lobby President Trump on behalf of a 63-year-old woman serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug conviction. This week, it appears Kardashian’s efforts paid off, as Trump granted clemency to Alice Marie Johnson.
In Prison for Over 20 Years
According to the New York Times, Ms. Johnson was a single mother of five who struggled with gambling, unemployment, bankruptcy, and foreclosure before she got involved with a drug ring. In 1993, she was arrested for her involvement in an operation that transported cocaine from Houston to Memphis.
She was convicted of a number of drug-related offenses including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, attempted possession with intent to distribute, and money laundering. According to the AP at the time, Johnson led the “multimillion-dollar drug ring that dealt in tons of cocaine.” Thanks to mandatory sentencing rules, she was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
A Second Chance
Johnson became a grandmother and a great grandmother while in prison. She participated in education and vocational programs, volunteered with sick and dying prisoners, and helped organize Special Olympics at the prison. Her case garnered Kardashian’s attention through a viral video posted by Mic, a news website. And Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and an advocate for criminal justice reform, arranged the White House meeting.
In granting clemency for Johnson, the White House statement read, “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.” Although the commutation is not the same as a pardon, it will allow Johnson to go free.
Not a Unanimous Decision
Not everyone in the administration appears to be on board with the clemency order. Apparently, some advisors, such as chief of staff John Kelly, were not convinced Johnson deserved clemency given her role in trafficking substantial amounts of cocaine into Memphis. Others hope the administration will extend the same mercy to similarly situated prisoners serving such extreme sentences.