President Donald Trump granted a full pardon Friday to Alice Marie Johnson, a woman who served over 21 years in prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense, NBC News reported.
Johnson, whose sentence President Trump commuted in 2018, spoke during the Republican National Convention on Thursday night about how the president’s decision to give her a second chance at freedom changed her life.
“You have been fully pardoned,” President Trump told Johnson on Friday at the White House, as Johnson wiped away tears of joy. “That’s the ultimate thing that can happen. It means you can do whatever you want in life. Just keep doing the great job you’re doing. We’re very proud of Alice and the job you’ve done.”
Johnson’s story was one of the driving forces leading President Trump to advocate for passage of the First Step Act, the bipartisan criminal justice reform law that eased some of the harsh sentencing guidelines. Johnson’s own harsh sentence was made possible by a 1986 drug law, which was co-authored by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).
Johnson was convicted of attempted possession of cocaine, conspiracy to possess cocaine, and money laundering for her role in a cocaine trafficking operation in Memphis. In 1997, she was given a life sentence without parole, and an additional 25 years.
During her prison sentence, she was a model citizen and grew into a mentor for other women. She was granted the opportunity to speak by video from prison to Ivy League students and corporate executives, bringing her story to the public eye.
Kim Kardashian West saw video of Johnson’s story and began advocating for Johnson’s release through her own lawyer and White House adviser Jared Kushner. Former President Barack Obama rejected Johnson’s request for clemency three times.
Johnson has said that she got involved with drug dealing because she lost her job and needed to provide for her children, and regrets it as the “worst decision of her life.”
“Free in body thanks to President Trump, but free in mind thanks to the Almighty God,” Johnson said Thursday night. “I couldn’t believe it. I always remembered that God knew my name even in my darkest hour, but I never thought a president would.”
With the pardon, Johnson regains her right to vote ahead of the 2020 election.