President Donald Trump announced he commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old serving for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense, on Wednesday.
Trump’s decision comes days after reality star Kim Kardashian spoke with the president at the White House about prison reform and sentencing. Kardashian has spent months using her platform to bring attention to Johnson’s case. She met with the president to discuss the possibility of revisiting Johnson’s sentence.
One of Johnson’s attorneys, Brittany K. Barnett, released a statement on Wednesday thanking the president and claimed his clemency “saved Alice Johnson’s life.”
“Justice has been served today, and it’s long overdue,” Barnett said in her statement. “Alice has more than paid her debt to society by serving over 21 years of a life-without-parole sentence as a nonviolent drug offender. Life in prison without the possibility of parole screams that a person is beyond hope, beyond redemption. And in Alice’s case, it is a punishment that absolutely did not fit the crime.”
Kardashian also thanked Trump and a number of others who worked on Johnson’s case in a series of tweets. The reality star also described what happened as she broke the news to Johnson about her commuted sentence.
“The phone call I just had with Alice will forever be one of my best memories,” Kardashian tweeted. “Telling her for the first time and hearing her screams while crying together is a moment I will never forget.”
Johnson was sentenced in 1996 for helping a multimillion-dollar cocaine ring, something Johnson said she became involved with after she lost her job and was unable to support her family. In an op-ed titled “Why Kim Kardashian Thinks I Should Be Released From Prison” for CNN, Johnson wrote that her life “began to spiral out of control” after the loss of her son and her divorce.
“I made the biggest mistake of my life to make ends meet and got involved with people selling drugs,” Johnson wrote in her CNN piece. “This was a road I never dreamed of venturing down. I became what is called a telephone mule, passing messages between the distributors and sellers. I participated in a drug conspiracy, and I was wrong.”
The White House released a statement on Wednesday commending Johnson for her ability to rehabilitate herself in prison. Johnson’s clemency was supported by her warden, Arcala Washington-Adduci, who told the White House she is a “model inmate who is willing to go above and beyond in all work tasks.”
“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 statement read.
Kardashian became aware of Johnson’s case last year after seeing Mic.com’s October video profiling the grandmother of six and the great-grandmother of one. Johnson has been in prison for more than 21 years and is not eligible for parole after being convicted in federal court, according to Mic.
Kardashian told Mic after her White House visit that she believed Johnson deserved a second chance. The reality star and businesswoman cited Johnson’s spotless record in prison and family support system as reasons why she makes a good candidate for clemency.
“I just really strongly believe that she is someone that has completely rehabilitated herself and will continue to do so outside of prison,” Kardashian told Mic in May. “You know, she’s done her time.”
Johnson applied for clemency three times under the administration of former President Barack Obama. Obama pushed for commuted sentences and pardons for drug convictions a number of times during his presidency but he didn’t approve Johnson’s requests.
Kardashian revealed a letter from Johnson on her Instagram story after the White House visit in May. Johnson wrote that the reality star was “literally helping to save my life and restore me to my family.”
This story has been updated with statements from the White House, Johnson’s attorney and Kim Kardashian.