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    Wednesday, 6 June 2018

    Trump frees drug offender grandmother who Kim Kardashian begged him to pardon

    President Donald Trump has freed a first-time drug offender and grandmother whose case has been championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian.
    He commuted the life sentence of Alice Johnson, 63, after the personal plea in the Oval Office from the reality star.  
    Kardashian posted a picture of Johnson with the caption: 'BEST NEWS EVER!!!!'
    'So grateful to @realDonaldTrump, Jared Kushner & to everyone who has showed compassion & contributed countless hours to this important moment for Ms. Alice Marie Johnson,' she said. 'Her commutation is inspirational & gives hope to so many others who are also deserving of a second chance.'
    She said, 'I hope to continue this important work by working together with organizations who have been fighting this fight for much longer than I have and deserve the recognition.'Trump met with Kardashian last week to discuss Johnson's case in the Oval Office. The White House shared a picture of Kardashian and Trump, who was grinning from ear to ear, after the meeting that reporters were not allowed anywhere near. 
    Johnson's attorneys had prepped Kardashian for the meeting with Trump where she begged for clemency for the for the great-grandmother.
    A lawyer for Johnson did not return a request for comment on the commutation.
    A senior White House official told DailyMail.com that reporting that claimed Trump had pardoned Johnson was inaccurate. The White House has not issued an official statement on the commutation.
    The move to commute the sentence came after internal debate among his top advisers. 
    The paperwork for a pardon for 63-year-old Alice Johnson was being finalized on Tuesday
    The paperwork for a pardon for 63-year-old Alice Johnson was being finalized on Tuesday
    White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn are said to have been less-than-thrilled, however, with the president's recent reprieve.
    Both officials are said to have reviewed Johnson's case, which involved drug possession and money laundering, and were not convinced she should be set free, The Washington Post reported.
    A source told The Post that Trump is 'obsessed' with his almost unchecked ability to issue pardons and could issue a dozen more before the end of the summer. CNN said the number he was considering was closer to 30.
    Trump told reporters that he's also considering pardons for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart.
    The Post says that Trump is also thinking about pardoning two ranchers from Oregon, Dwight and Steven Hammond. They were convicted of arson charges in 2012 and sentenced to minimal time in prison, then re-sentenced to five years each at the behest of the government.
    Johnson's case has a powerful ally in not just Kardashian, but the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who set up the face-to-face with with the celebrity who's married to Kayne West.  
    Trump reportedly thanked Kardashian at the meeting for boosting his popularity with African-Americans, a group that has not strongly supported his presidency.
    Two sources familiar with the conversation recounted it to Bloomberg News.  
    Trump received only 8 percent of African-American vote in 2016, compared to the 88 percent who supported Hillary Clinton.  


    Alice Marie Johnson, a mother-of-five, grandmother-of-six and great-grandmother of one, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of drug dealing in 1996. 
    It was her first conviction and some of co-conspirators testified her against in exchange for plea deals.
    The 63-year-old grew up in Olive Branch, Mississippi, and was married and pregnant by age 15.
    In 1989, she and her husband divorced. Her life started to crumble as she struggled, as a single mother, to try and be financially stable for her five children, reports Mic. However, in 1990, because of a gambling addition, she was sacked by FedEx Corporation. 
    After filing for bankruptcy in 1991, Johnson lost her house. The next year, a scooter accident claimed the life of her youngest son, Cory.
    It was while she was at rock bottom that Johnson became involved in a drug syndicate that imported cocaine into Memphis, Tennessee, where she acted as a go-between and passed on messages to drug dealers, relaying coded messages like 'everything is straight' by telephone.  
    While admitting to acting as a middle man for the drug traffickers, passing on the messages in code via telephone, Johnson claims she never directly sold drugs.
    Inside time: Alice Johnson in federal prison
    Inside time: Alice Johnson in federal prison
    She was arrested along with 15 others in 1993 on charges including conspiracy to possess cocaine, attempted possession of cocaine and money laundering.
    But ten of her alleged co-conspirators turned against her in exchange for reduced sentencing or dropped charges. 
    During the trial, evidence showed an operation with Texas-based Colombian drug dealers and their Memphis connections trading tons of cocaine for millions of dollars in cash.
    At the time of Johnson's February 1997 sentencing the amount of drugs and money involved meant that federal laws mandated a life sentence, despite the fact Johnson was a first-time, nonviolent offender.
    US District Judge Julia Gibbons, who sentenced Johnson, called the then 42-year-old the 'quintessential entrepreneur' of the drug ring.
    'And clearly the impact of 2,000 to 3,000 kilograms of cocaine in this community is very significant,' Gibbons said at the sentencing.
    The quantity of cocaine - up to three tons - would now be worth about $85 million. 
    Johnson is now 21 years into her life sentence at FCI Aliceville, in Aliceville, Alabama.
    Her eldest daughter Tretessa Johnson, told Mic several years ago, 'It's like a waking death; it's like the person is alive but they're not. There's never a point of closure, ever. It's heartbreaking for me.'
    Tretessa has organised an online petition, via change.org, calling for her to be released, explaining that her family's life 'changed forever' when she was sentenced to life in federal prison.
    She said her mother had explained that she became a telephone mule passing messages between her co-conspirators after losing her job at FedEx.
    Mom: Alice Johnson is now a grandmother as well
    Mom: Alice Johnson is now a grandmother as well
    Alice Johnson is quoted on Tretessa's petition: 'I couldn't find a job fast enough to take care of my family. I felt like a failure.
    'I went to a complete panic and out of desperation I made one of the worst decisions in my life to make some quick money. I became involved in a drug conspiracy'.
    Tretessa said that her 'mom's desire upon release is to assist the community with the needs of ex-offenders to help reduce recidivism. 
    'It serves no purpose or benefit to society to have her locked up for life. Her large and loving immediate and extended family and friends would welcome her return.'
    During her time in prison, Johnson has displayed exemplary behavior, become an ordained minister, a published writer and a prison tutor, a biography from Can Do Clemency reports. 
    She has gained a large following of people pushing for her to be granted clemency. Part of this push saw her story turned into a short video, which went viral on social media.
    Kim Kardashian saw the video and retweeted it to her millions of followers with the caption: 'This is so unfair' in October last year. 
    Since then, she has been working to help Johnson receive clemency from President Donald Trump. 
    The reality star had her personal lawyer begin working on Johnson's case, and has spent months in conversation with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and adviser, on the topic.
    Kushner - whose father Charles is himself a federal felon - is pushing a criminal justice reform agenda. 
    In late November, a grateful Johnson penned a moving letter to Kardashian, saying her efforts were 'literally helping to save my life'.
    'I was drowning, and you have thrown me a life jacket and given me hope,' she wrote.  Kardashian met with Trump and Kushner at the White House on May 30 to make her case for a presidential pardon for Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence without parole for a drug offense.
    Trump hasn't mentioned Johnson's case, although he issued a pardon for conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza since that meeting.  
    Additionally, Trump has publicly said he could pardon Stewart and commute the sentence of Blagojevich. 
    The star of 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians' told Mic News that her meeting with Trump went well after he tweeted the picture of them in the Oval Office.
    'He really understood, and I am very hopeful that this will turn out really positively,' she said.   

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