Donald Trump pardons Alice Marie Johnson after Kim Kardashian plea

A Tennessee woman who has spent 21 years in prison for a non-violent drug offence has been pardoned by President Donald Trump on the urging of Kim Kardashian West.

Alice Marie Johnson was sentenced in 1996 to life without parole for what was her first offence.

Kardashian West read about her case in October and took up her cause, travelling to the White House on May 30 to plead her case before Mr Trump.

On Wednesday the White House announced that she was being granted a pardon.

"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 said in a statement.

"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.

"Her Warden, Case Manager, and Vocational Training Instructor have all written letters in support of her clemency."

Kardashian West was jubilant at the news.

"Best news ever!" the reality TV star tweeted in response.

However, the process reportedly caused consternation among Mr Trump’s advisors, with John Kelly, the chief of staff, and Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, reviewing the case and lobbying the president not to grant her clemency.

But Mr Trump overruled their concerns and decided that the 62-year-old grandmother should be released.

Johnson, whose case has become a cause celebre for sentencing reform advocates, worked in management for 10 years but lost her job and “struggled financially.” 

Johnson had lost her job at FedEx due to a gambling addiction, her son was killed in a motorcycle accident and her marriage ended in divorce.

She said she felt like a failure and “out of desperation” she “made one of the worst decisions of my life. I became involved in a drug conspiracy,” she says.

Alice Marie Johnson is set to be pardoned and released from prison following an intervention by Kim Kardashian WestCredit:
Change.org

Johnson wrote a lengthy article for CNN, and explained: “Before my incarceration, I had a full life. I married my childhood sweetheart and became the mother to five beautiful children. As the years went on I became a facilitator training people on how to be managers. I was a manager at FedEx for seven years. Life for a time was good.”

She added: “But after almost two decades together and a tumultuous relationship, my husband and I divorced in 1989. 

"It was during this time that my life began to spiral out of control. I lost my job then my youngest son was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.”

Johnson’s family have thanked Kardashian for her interest in the case, and Johnson herself wrote to the reality television star.

"There are no words strong enough to express my deep and heartfelt gratitude," she wrote. 

"Ms Kardashian, you are quite literally helping to save my life and restore me to my family. I was drowning and you have thrown me a life jacket, and given me hope that this life jacket I’m serving may one day be taken off." 

Kardashian and her legal team hope that Johnson’s case will start a wider conversation about prison reform.

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Johnson’s lawyer, Brittany Barnett, told CBS News: "We are grateful that Kim is using her platform to raise awareness and hope that everyone looks beyond Kim and sees that there is a woman about to die in prison."

 

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