President Trump has commuted the life sentence of a great-grandmother serving life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense after Kim Kardashian West lobbied last week for clemency, officials said.
Alice Marie Johnson, 63, was convicted in 1996 on eight criminal counts stemming from a Memphis-based cocaine trafficking scheme that involved more than a dozen people.
Though it was her first arrest, Johnson was sentenced to life in prison in 1997. She was not eligible for parole.
Johnson’s story caught the attention of Kardashian West, who became her advocate after reading about the case on social media. Last Wednesday, Kardashian West met Trump at the White House to discuss the issue.
A week later, Trump signed a commutation for Johnson.
"Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades," the White House said in a statement. "Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates."
Johnson's warden, case manager, and vocational training instructor all wrote letters in support of her clemency, officials said.
"Since [Ms. Johnson's] arrival at this institution, she has exhibited outstanding and exemplary work ethic," Johnson's warden, Arcala Washington-Adduci said. "She is considered to be a model inmate who is willing to go above and beyond in all work tasks."
The White House noted it "will always be very tough on crime," but it "believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance."
As news of Johnson's commuted sentence spread, her biggest supporter took to the platform she first learned of her case to express her joy.
“BEST NEWS EVER!!!!” Kardashian West wrote on Twitter.
Kardashian West paid for Johnson’s legal team and involved her personal attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, in Johnson’s case. Chapman Holley worked alongside Kardashian West’s father, Robert Kardashian, during the O.J. Simpson trial.
Kardashian West has also advocated for the need of overall sentencing reform in the U.S.
"I think it’s definitely a bigger issue that has to be addressed, and I’m glad that I’m starting with her," Kardashian West told Mic on Wednesday.
Since his meeting with Kardashian West, Trump has become fixated on his ability to issue pardons, according to The Washington Post.
A White House official told the paper that pardons were Trump’s new “favorite thing” to talk about and that the president was “obsessed” with the idea of them.
Early Wednesday, the administration prepared paperwork to pardon at least 30 people, including Johnson, CNN reported.
“It’s all part of the show,” veteran Republican consultant Ed Rollins, a former strategist for a pro-Trump super PAC, told The Post. “It’s not a rational or traditional process but about celebrity or who they know, or who he sees on ‘Fox & Friends.’ He’s sending the message, 'I can do whatever I want, and I could certainly pardon someone down the line on the Russia probe.'"
But others in the White House reportedly disagreed with Trump’s new position on the matter.
The new stance is seemingly at odds with the administration’s own policies, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded an Obama-era memo that increased leniency for low-level drug offenders. Sessions also instructed prosecutors to bring punitive charges that could elicit the sort of sentencing with which Johnson was met.