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Trump commutes term of Kardashian-championed drug offender

Published: Updated:

Flexing his clemency powers once again, President Donald Trump on Wednesday commuted the life sentence of a woman whose cause was championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian West.

“BEST NEWS EVER!!!!” was the exuberant Twitter response from Kardashian West, who visited the White House last week to press the case.

Alice Marie Johnson, 63, had spent more than two decades behind bars, serving life without parole for drug offenses. She was released hours after the White House announcement and ran into her family members’ arms.

Michael Scholl, a member of Johnson’s legal team, said she was released just before 6 p.m. from federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama. Footage from local news station WVTM-13 showed Johnson running toward her family, throwing her arms wide-open and embracing them in front of a crowd of onlookers.

“Everybody was crying and hugging,” Scholl said.

“I’m just so thankful. I feel like my life is starting over again,” Johnson said moments after her release, calling Kardashian West an “angel” and thanking Trump “for giving me another chance at life and restoring me to my family.”

Unlike a pardon, the commutation will not erase Johnson’s conviction, only end her sentence.

Trump’s decision, his latest inspired by a celebrity champion, comes amid a flurry of recent pardons issued by the president. He says he’s considering a long list of other clemency actions for those famous and not, including former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving 14 years in prison for corruption, and celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart, who served about five months on charges connected to an insider trading case.

Trump recently pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of a campaign finance violation. And he granted a posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, which had been championed by actor Sylvester Stallone. The federal prosecutor who oversaw Stewart’s case in New York was James Comey, one of Trump’s principal antagonists and the man he fired as FBI director last year.

Shawn Holley, Kardashian West’s attorney who accompanied her to the White House last week, said the reality star was the one who broke the news to Johnson on Wednesday in what she described as “the most wonderful, emotional and amazing phone call with Alice, Kim and Alice’s lawyers.”

“Once Alice’s family joined the call, the tears never stopped flowing,” Holley said in a statement.
Kardashian West described the moment via Twitter.

“Telling her for the first time and hearing her screams while crying together is a moment I will never forget.”

In a statement announcing the president’s decision, the White House said Johnson “has accepted responsibility for her past behavior” and had been a model prisoner, working hard to rehabilitate herself and serve as a mentor to fellow inmates.

“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,” said a statement from the office of White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Attorney Brittany K. Barnett, another member of Johnson’s legal team, said Johnson felt overwhelmed with emotion and like she’s been “resurrected from the dead.”

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