Alice Marie Johnson, 63, a first-time non-violent offender was serving a life sentence for selling drugs
Donald Trump has commuted the prison sentence of a woman serving a life sentence for selling drugs, following a lobbying effort by Kim Kardashian that saw the celebrity meet with the president in the Oval Office.
On Wednesday, the White House announced that it had commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old great grandmother who was convicted of cocaine trafficking in 1996.
Johnson, a first time, non-violent offender, had gained prominence when Kardashian started lobbying on her behalf. The reality television star visited the White House last week where she posed for a picture with Trump.
He later retweeted Kardashian when she expressed her hope that the president would grant Johnson clemency.
Kardashian hailed the news in a tweet on Wednesday, writing “best news ever!!!”. She went on to thank Trump, his son-in-law and aide, Jared Kushner, and “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.”
In a statement announcing the commutation, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said: “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.”
Sanders added: “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 White House has backed a bipartisan prison reform bill which passed the House but is currently mired in the Senate due to concerns from Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, that it fails to include sentencing reforms to help non-violent drug offenders such as Johnson.
Johnson is the second person commuted by Trump since taking office. The first was Shalom Rubashkin, a chief executive of a meatpacking company, who was convicted on charges of fraud and money laundering in 2009 and sentenced to 27 years in jail. Trump commuted his sentence in December 2017 after Rubashkin served eight years in prison.
Unlike a pardon, a commutation does not expunge a criminal conviction. It simply reduces the punishment.
The commutation comes as Trump has been more freely using his constitutional power to pardon. In the past month, he issued a posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson who was convicted in 1913 for transporting a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes” and pardoned far-right provocateur Dinesh D’Souza for knowingly violating campaign finance laws. He has also mused about granting a commutation to the former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of trying to sell an appointment to the US Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, and a pardon for the cooking and lifestyle personality Martha Stewart, who was convicted of lying to federal investigators over stock trading.
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