Alice Marie Johnson
Alice Marie Johnson
|Born||May 30, 1955|
|Criminal penalty||Life sentence|
|Criminal status||Released on parole after clemency granted|
Alice Marie Johnson (born May 30, 1955) is an American convicted drug trafficker. Convicted in 1996 for her involvement in a Memphis cocaine trafficking organization, she was sentenced to life imprisonment. In June 2018, after serving 21 years in prison, Johnson was released from the Federal Correctional Institution, Aliceville, after President Donald Trump commuted her sentence at the urging of Kim Kardashian.
Crime and sentence
A divorced mother of five children, Johnson was arrested in 1993 and convicted in 1996 of eight federal criminal counts relating to her involvement in a Memphis, Tennessee-based cocaine trafficking organization. In addition to drug conspiracy counts, Johnson was convicted of money laundering and structuring, the latter crime because of her purchase of a house with a down payment structured to avoid hitting a $10,000 reporting threshold. The Memphis operation involved over a dozen individuals. The indictment described Johnson as a leader in a multi-million dollar cocaine ring, and detailed dozens of drug transactions and deliveries. Evidence presented at trial showed that the Memphis operation was connected to Colombian drug dealers based in Texas. Johnson was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1997. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Julia Gibbons said that Johnson was "the quintessential entrepreneur" in an operation that dealt in 2,000 to 3,000 kilograms of cocaine, with a "very significant" impact on the community. Co-defendants Curtis McDonald and Jerlean McNeil were sentenced to life and 19 years in federal prison, respectively. A number of other co-defendants who testified against Johnson received sentences between probation and 10 years.
Johnson told Mic in 2017 that she had become involved in the drug trade after losing a longtime job at FedEx due to a gambling addiction, becoming divorced, and experiencing the loss of her youngest son in a motorcycle accident. According to a profile in Mic, Johnson filed for bankruptcy in 1991, and foreclosure of her house followed. Following her conviction, Johnson acknowledged that she was an intermediary in the drug trafficking organization, but said she did not actually make deals or sell drugs.
Commutation and release
Johnson became a grandmother and great-grandmother while imprisoned. She exhibited good behavior in prison, and according to her lawyer, the warden supported her release. A campaign in support of her release was launched by the American Civil Liberties Union and the website Mic; activists who supported her release argued that the punishment was excessive and an example of disproportionate impacts on African-Americans. A number of individuals and organizations supported Johnson's bid for clemency, including U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen, Bennie Thompson, and Marc Veasey, law professors Marc Morjé Howard and Shon Hopwood, and Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman.
Johnson's was one of the 16,776 petitions filed in the Obama administration's 2014 clemency project. In 2016, she wrote an op-ed for CNN asking for forgiveness and a second chance. Her application was denied just before Obama left office. In 2018, Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner sought to persuade Trump to grant clemency to Johnson. In late May 2018, Kardashian met Trump in the Oval Office to urge him to pardon Johnson. On June 6, 2018, following Kardashian's appeal, Trump commuted Johnson's sentence, and Johnson was released. The commutation was one of a series of acts of clemency made by Trump in a "few high-profile cases brought to him by associates and allies." The Washington Post's Wonkblog described the pardon as somewhat surprising given Trump's past statements in favor of executing drug dealers.
- "Alice Marie Johnson – FREE AT LAST – LIFE sent commuted!". CAN-DO. June 6, 2018.
- Erica Gonzales (May 30, 2018). "Donald Trump Just Posted a Photo with Kim Kardashian in the Oval Office After Discussing Prison Reform". Harper's Bazaar.
- Adriana Diaz (June 7, 2018). "Alice Johnson embracing newfound freedom after two decades behind bars". CBS News.
- Baker, Peter (June 6, 2018). "Alice Marie Johnson Is Granted Clemency by Trump After Push by Kim Kardashian West". New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- Amy Mackelden (June 6, 2018). "Who is Alice Marie Johnson?". Harper's Bazaar.
- Memphis drug dealer gets life in prison, Associated Press (February 23, 1997).
- Jake Horowitz & Kendall Ciesemie, Exclusive: Kim Kardashian West has talked to White House about pardoning nonviolent drug offender, Mic (May 2, 2018).
- Gabriel Grand, This Single Mother is Serving Life Without Parole for the Most Absurd Reason You Can Imagine, Mic (November 16, 2013).
- Schallhorn, Kaitlyn (June 7, 2018). "Who is Alice Marie Johnson, the great-grandmother Trump is granting clemency to?". Fox News.
- "Kardashian lobbies for presidential pardon". BBC. May 3, 2018. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- "Sign On Letter for Alice Johnson". The Justice Roundtable.
- Kasana, Mehreen (June 7, 2018). "Kim Kardashian's Meeting With Trump Apparently Went Even Better Than We Thought". Bustle. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- Christopher Ingraham, It's not just Alice Marie Johnson: Over 2,000 federal prisoners are serving life sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, Washington Post (June 6, 2018).