Donald Trump grants Kim Kardashian's clemency plea

Donald Trump has granted celemency to a 63-year-old woman serving a life sentence for drug offences whose cause was championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian West in a recent visit to the White House.
Kim Kardashian West shown during her visit to US president Donald TrumpKim Kardashian West shown during her visit to US president Donald Trump
Kim Kardashian West shown during her visit to US president Donald Trump

The US president has commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson.

Mrs Johnson spent more than two decades behind bars and is not eligible for parole.

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The move comes amid a recent flurry of pardons issued by Mr Trump, who has seemed drawn to causes advocated by conservatives, celebrities or those who once appeared on his former reality show The Apprentice.

Kardashian West visited the White House in May to meet with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who is overseeing the administration’s push to overhaul the nation’s prison system.

She also met with Mr Trump in the Oval Office.

A photograph was released by the president on Twitter.

In an interview with Mic released earlier this year, Kardashian West said she had been moved by Mrs Johnson’s story after seeing a video by the news outlet on the same social media platform.

“I think that she really deserves a second chance at life,” Kardashian told Mic. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get her out.”

The commutation puts a renewed focus on the Trump administration’s push for prison and sentencing reform, which has sometimes clashed with the president’s law-and-order approach, especially at the Justice Department.

Mr Trump had previously called for getting tougher on drug dealers, including suggesting some should receive the death penalty.

Mrs Johnson was convicted in 1996 on eight criminal counts related to a Memphis-based cocaine trafficking operation involving more than a dozen people.

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The 1994 indictment describes dozens of deliveries and drug transactions, many involving Mrs Johnson.

She was sentenced to life in prison in 1997. Appellate judges and the US Supreme Court have rejected her appeals.

Court records show she has a motion pending for a reduction in her sentence, but federal prosecutors are opposed, saying in a court filing the sentence is in accord with federal guidelines based on the large quantity of drugs involved.

The US Attorney’s Office in Memphis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A criminal justice advocacy site, CAN-DO, and one of Mrs Johnson’s attorneys said a request for clemency was rejected by former President Barack Obama. The reasons were unclear.

Memphis attorney Michael Scholl, who filed the latest court documents in Mrs Johnson’s request for a sentence reduction, said she was not a leader in the cocaine operation.

“What is the purpose of putting a lady with no prior criminal record, on a non-violent drug offence, in jail for her entire life?” he said in a telephone interview. “She’s a model inmate.”

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Mr Scholl added Mr Johnson had admitted her wrongdoing, which is borne out in letters she has written to US District Judge Samuel H. Mays, who now oversees her case.

“Judge Mays I’m writing to you to express my deep remorse for the crime that I committed over 20 years ago. I made some bad choices which have not only affected my life, but have impacted my entire family,” she said in a February 2017 letter in the court record.

In a hand-scrawled letter in June last year, she wrote: “I’m a broken woman. More time in prison cannot accomplish more justice.”

The commutation comes days after Mr Trump pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of a campaign finance violation, and granted a posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, clearing Jack Johnson’s name more than 100 years after what many saw as a racially charged conviction.

The boxer’s pardon had been championed by actor Sylvester Stallone, who Mr Trump said had brought the story to his attention in a phone call.