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Kim Kardashian asks Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson

Kardashian arrives at the White HouseImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Kardashian arrives at the White House on an overcast afternoon

Kim Kardashian West has met President Donald Trump to discuss a potential pardon for a 63-year-old great-grandmother who is serving life in prison.

Alice Marie Johnson has been behind bars for more than two decades for a first-time drug offence.

Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has also been speaking with Mrs Kardashian West about the case for months.

Kim Kardashian asks Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson
Kim Kardashian asks Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson

President Trump tweeted that they had a “great meeting”.

Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

Great meeting with @KimKardashian today, talked about prison reform and sentencing. pic.twitter.com/uOy4UJ41JF

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018

End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

Why is Kim Kardashian involved in the case?

Johnson’s story first caught the reality television star’s eye after she saw a short video about the case posted on social media.

Skip Twitter post by @KimKardashian

This is so unfair… https://t.co/W3lPINbQuy

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) October 26, 2017

End of Twitter post by @KimKardashian

Mrs Kardashian West was moved to ask her longtime personal lawyer, Shawn Holley, to take a look at the case and is paying for a new legal team for Johnson.

The reality television star was also able to join forces with Mr Kushner, a senior adviser to the president who has been pushing for federal prison reform.

Mr Kushner’s First Step Act, which allots $50m (£38m) for rehabilitative programmes for inmates, passed in the US House of Representatives last week.

According to Johnson’s daughters, the process has sped up considerably since Mrs Kardashian West’s involvement.

Wednesday is also Johnson’s birthday, which Mrs Kardashian West noted in a tweet this morning.

Skip Twitter post 2 by @KimKardashian

Happy Birthday Alice Marie Johnson. Today is for you 🙏🏼✨

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 30, 2018

End of Twitter post 2 by @KimKardashian

On the meeting with Mr Trump, Mrs Kardashian West said she was hopeful Johnson would get a “second chance at life”.

Skip Twitter post 3 by @KimKardashian

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.

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 31, 2018

End of Twitter post 3 by @KimKardashian

Skip Twitter post 4 by @KimKardashian

We are optimistic about Ms. Johnson’s future and hopeful that she —and so many like her—will get a second chance at life.

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 31, 2018

End of Twitter post 4 by @KimKardashian

Image copyrightCourtsey CAN-Do Clemency
Image caption Alice Marie Johnson

Who is Alice Marie Johnson?

Johnson was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1996 for a first-time, non-violent drug offence. She was convicted of being a “telephone mule”, relaying messages between drug distributors and sellers.

According to her family and supporters, Johnson has been a model inmate who is active in many programmes, including work in the prison hospice. She fitted all of the criteria for former President Barack Obama’s Clemency Project 2014, but was denied just days before the end 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.

Despite that, Mrs Kardashian West’s interest appears to have revitalised the effort.

Amy Povah, the founder of CAN-DO Clemency, has been advocating for Johnson’s release since 2014 and says she has helped collect signatures from 70 organisations who support the pardon, as well as a letter of support from the retired warden of Johnson’s prison.

All of that material may be submitted to President Trump.

“She’s always stood out to me as being exceptional,” says Ms Povah. “She’s not bitter or angry, she’s this ray of sunshine.”

What happens next?

The pardon process is entirely up to the president’s discretion, and it is unknown at this point whether he plans to announce a decision to coincide with Mrs Kardashian West’s visit.

Many on social media have been critical of Mrs Kardashian West’s unlikely role as prison reform advocate and say there are thousands of cases that deserve closer examination, but Johnson’s daughters remain hopeful that – at least for their family – the long wait may soon be over.

“We are praying for mercy in my mom’s case… that this nightmare is finally coming to an end,” Tretessa Johnson told the BBC.

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