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Trump, after Kardashian appeal, commutes sentence of drug offender

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian arrives at the White House to appeal for a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old great-grandmother who has been serving a life sentence for a first-time drug offense
AFP

Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence on Wednesday of a 63-year-old woman whose release had been championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian.

Alice Marie Johnson, 63, had served nearly 22 years of a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense.

Kardashian, the wife of rapper Kanye West, met with Trump at the White House last week to appeal for the release of the great-grandmother convicted of cocaine trafficking.

The White House said in a statement that Trump had commuted Johnson’s sentence and that she “has accepted responsibility for her past behavior” and been a “model prisoner.”

“Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates,” the White House said.

“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,” it said.

Kardashian welcomed the commutation of Johnson’s sentence with a tweet saying it was the “BEST NEWS EVER!!!!”

Following his meeting with Kardashian last week, Trump tweeted: “Great meeting with @KimKardashian today, talked about prison reform and sentencing.”

Kanye West recently raised eyebrows after tweeting about his “love” for Trump and describing him as a “brother” with whom he shared “dragon energy.”

Fixing tough sentencing laws had been a priority of former president Barack Obama’s administration, but he failed to win congressional support, prompting a stream of presidential pardons and clemency actions.

Trump has so far taken a more hardline approach, advocating a “lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key” approach to criminal justice.

During his first year and half in office he has issued a number of pardons, however, mostly involving high-profile cases.

Opposition Democrats say Trump’s pardons — or hints to issue clemency — of political allies is meant to signal his present and former aides that they need not fear resisting the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Last week, Trump pardoned firebrand conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of violating campaign finance laws.

He previously pardoned disgraced Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Trump supporter who violated a court order to halt traffic patrols targeting immigrants.

He also commuted the sentence of vice president Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Trump issued a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion, who was sent to prison a century ago in a racially charged case

The president has also signaled that he could similarly favor lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, who went to jail for making false statements in an insider trading case, and commute the prison sentence of Rod Blagojevich, a former governor of Illinois convicted of corruption.

Blagojevich — a Democrat — appeared on Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice” while Stewart once hosted a spin-off version of the show.

Trump on Monday even asserted a right to pardon himself of any crime.

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