Kim Kardashian meets Trump to discuss prison reforms, seek clemency for great-grandmother
Friends and family asserted that Johnson has been active in many of the prison programs which include work in the prison hospital
On Wednesday afternoon, television personality and socialite Kim Kardashian West visited the White House to discuss prison reform with President Donald Trump and the possibility of a pardon for a great-grandmother who was sentenced to life for a drug-related offense many years ago.
The popular TV star was scheduled to meet with White House senior adviser and son-in-law to the president, Jared Kushner, in order to push for clemency to be granted to 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson, reported Fox News.
Trump later tweeted a photo of himself with Kim in the Oval Office. However, he did not reveal the minutes of the meeting pertaining to Johnson's release.
"I would like to thank President Trump for his time this afternoon. It is our hope that the President will grant clemency to Ms Alice Marie Johnson who is serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense," the reality star tweeted. "We are optimistic about Ms. Johnson's future and hopeful that she — and so many like her — will get a second chance at life."
According to Mic, Johnson was convicted of a first-time non-violent drug offense that led to her being sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. She was convicted for her role, along with 15 others, in a large cocaine distribution ring in Tennessee.
Kim Kardashian West first saw the story of Johnson's plight in a video profile produced by the outlet in 2017 and was immediately drawn to help her cause.
“If you think about a decision that you’ve made in your life and you get life without the possibility of parole for your first-time nonviolent offense, there’s just something so wrong with that,” Kardashian West told the outlet.
Reportedly, Kim has been in touch with the Trump administration and Kushner especially in order to bring the great-grandmother's story to light. “I think that she really deserves a second chance at life,” Kardashian West told Mic. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get her out.”
Arrested back in 1993, Johnson was convicted four years later on money laundering and drug conspiracy charges. Mic previously reported that, after losing her job, witnessing the death of her son, her subsequent divorce and the foreclosure of her house, Johnson was forced to get involved with cocaine dealers.
According to reports, Johnson admitted to acting as an intermediary for dealers selling drugs, passing along messages as they pleased. However, she was never directly involved in the deals.
Earlier on Wednesday, the mesmerizing socialite had hinted at her trip to Washington, D.C. "Happy Birthday Alice Marie Johnson,” Kardashian West tweeted. “Today is for you.”
Back in 1997, a documentary on Johnson's sentencing by the Associated Press made it look like she was the mastermind of a multimillion-dollar drug ring. However, the attorney representing Johnson, Michael Scholl, asserted that she was not even close to a leader in the drug operation. Scholl had filed the latest court documents in her request for a reduction in her sentence.
“What is the purpose of putting a lady with no prior criminal record, on a nonviolent drug offense, in jail for her entire life?” he said in a telephone interview. “She’s a model inmate.”
Johnson has admitted her wrongdoing, Scholl urged, in her letter to US District Judge Samuel H Mays, who is now presiding over the case.
“Judge Mays I’m writing to you to express my deep remorse for the crime that I committed over 20 years ago. I made some bad choices which have not only affected my life, but have impacted my entire family,” Johnson said in the letter she wrote back in February 2017.
Last June, she wrote another letter, saying: “I’m a broken woman. More time in prison cannot accomplish more justice.”
Friends and family asserted that Johnson has been active in many of the prison programmes which includes work in the prison hospital. Being a model inmate, she fitted all the criteria necessary for former President Barack Obama's Clemency Project 2014. However, Obama denied her the release just days before the conclusion of his term.
"This is the last time I'll put my family through the heartache of expectations," Johnson told the BBC at the time.
That being said, efforts put in by Kardashian West seemed to bear fruit in bringing the case back into the spotlight.
The founder of CAN-DO Clemency, Amy Povah, helped collect signatures from as many as 70 organizations in a petition to pardon her. Povah has been advocating for Johnson's release since 2014 and even secured a letter of support from the retired warden of Johnson's penitentiary.
Now, bringing in a second ray of hope, Kim has submitted all the collected documents to President Trump to take a decision. "She's always stood out to me as being exceptional," says Povah. "She's not bitter or angry, she's this ray of sunshine."
Having said that, quite a few users on social media have questioned Kardashian West's credentials to speak on the subject of prison reform, suggesting there are more qualified people who should have met Trump to push for her release.
On the other hand, many pointed out that there have been several instances of celebrities meeting political leaders, and that Kim's critics are simply displaying their double standards blatantly. "If this was Leonardo DiCaprio or George Clooney... nobody would bat an eyelid," one Twitter user wrote.