by Zach Johnson | Wed., Jun. 6, 2018 3:45 PM
UPDATE: Hours after President Donald Trump granted clemency to Alice Johnson, she was released from prison. Footage released by NBC News showed the emotional moment Johnson reunited with family members.
Never underestimate the power of Kim Kardashian's influence.
Last week, the 37-year-old Keeping Up With the Kardashians star traveled from Calabasas, Calif., to Washington, D.C., with the intent of persuading President Donald Trump to grant clemency to Alice Johnson, a first-time nonviolent drug offender who had been given a life sentence without parole. Trump forgave Alice Wednesday, a White House spokesperson confirmed to E! News. Relieved, Kardashian tweeted, "BEST NEWS EVER!!!!" Johnson will be released from federal prison in Aliceville, Ala., where she has been serving her time since 1996.
Trump posed for a photo with Kardashian in the Oval Office May 30 and later shared it on Twitter, writing, "Great meeting with @KimKardashian today, talked about prison reform and sentencing." White House senior adviser Jared Kushner had been talking to the E! reality star for several months about Johnson's case, and Kardashian hired her attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, to act as her legal counsel. After Kardashian's trip ended, a source told E! News, "She really wants to make a difference in people's lives and left Washington feeling very inspired." In a Twitter statement, Kardashian said, "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. We are optimistic about Ms. Johnson's future and hopeful that she—and so many like her—will get a second chance at life."
The phone call I just had with Alice will forever be one of my best memories. Telling her for the first time and hearing her screams while crying together is a moment I will never forget.— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) June 6, 2018
After her White House meeting, Kardashian joined Kushner and his family for dinner at his home. She then flew to Jackson Hole, Wyo., to support Kanye West and his album's release.
The White House issued a briefing about Trump's decision midday Wednesday. "Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades. Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates," the briefing read. "Her warden, case manager and vocational training Instructor have all written letters in support of her clemency."
"According to her warden, Arcala Washington-Adduci, 'Since [her] arrival at this institution, she has exhibited outstanding and exemplary work ethic. She is considered to be a model inmate who is willing to go above and beyond in all work tasks,'" the briefing continued. "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." In an e-mail to Business Insider Wednesday morning, an imprisoned Johnson wrote, "I'm still waiting to exhale! I'm hanging in here and won't let go until I walk out of these doors!"
Kimberly you are such a beautiful person inside and out!! I am constantly amazed by your determination! No matter what, you never let anyone else dictate your life! What’s right is right! You did what was right! God bless you @KimKardashian 💜— Khloé (@khloekardashian) June 6, 2018
So, what does clemency mean for Johnson?
"A pardon is full forgiveness. It absolves and restores all the rights and privileges the person had before they were convicted. It's as if the crime never happened. If not yet convicted, it stops any prosecution," legal expert Troy Slaten told E! News Wednesday. "A commuted sentence usually means a lesser penalty or that a person is relieved of any further punishment. If you're serving a sentence in jail or prison, the sentence usually ends. But unlike a pardon, the conviction remains. In the case of Alice Johnson, it means she will likely be released very soon."
On Twitter Wednesday, Kardashian thanked Kushner, Trump and everyone else who "contributed countless hours to this important moment" for Johnson. "Her commutation is inspirational and gives hope to so many others who are also deserving of a second chance." Kardashian hopes "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."
Kardashian first became aware of the case in 2017, after she watched a viral video that featured Johnson sharing her story from prison. After her meeting with Trump, Kardashian said she planned to become more involved in causes like Johnson's. "It's definitely a bigger issue that has to be addressed," the KKW Beauty founder told Mic. "I'm glad I'm starting with her."
Johnson, who recently celebrated her 63rd birthday, was convicted in the '90s for her involvement in a cocaine trafficking operation. After her co-conspirators testified against her in court, Johnson was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole plus another 25 years.
Of course, proud mom Kris Jenner shared her joy on Instagram. "This made me cry! Kim, I've never been so proud of you. You have the biggest heart in the world and mixed with your determination you are unstoppable!" she told her daughter. "@kimkardashian #proudmama."
—Reporting by Holly Passalaqua
(This story was originally published Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 10:10 a.m.)
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