Alice Marie Johnson

Alice Marie Johnson

Born:   May 30, 1955
Place of Birth:   MS
Zodiac Sign:  Gemini

Alice Marie Johnson is an American criminal justice reform advocate and former federal prisoner. She was convicted in 1996 for her involvement in a Memphis cocaine trafficking organization and sentenced to life imprisonment. In June 2018, after serving 21 years in prison, she was released from the Federal Correctional Institution, Aliceville, after President Donald Trump commuted her sentence. In August 2020, Trump granted Johnson a full pardon. 

Johnson was arrested in 1993 and convicted in 1996 of eight federal criminal counts relating to her involvement in a Memphis, Tennessee-based cocaine trafficking organization. In addition to drug conspiracy counts, she was convicted of money laundering and structuring, the latter crime because of her purchase of a house with a down payment structured to avoid hitting a $10,000 reporting threshold. The Memphis operation involved over a dozen individuals. The indictment, which named 16 defendants, described her as a leader in a multi-million dollar cocaine ring, and detailed dozens of drug transactions and deliveries. Evidence presented at trial showed that the Memphis operation was connected to Colombian drug dealers based in Texas. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in 1997. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Julia Gibbons said that Johnson was "the quintessential entrepreneur" in an operation that dealt in 2,000 to 3,000 kilograms of cocaine, with a "very significant" impact on the community. Co-defendants Curtis McDonald and Jerlean McNeil were sentenced to life and 19 years in federal prison, respectively. A number of other co-defendants who testified against Johnson received sentences between probation and 10 years. Following her conviction, Johnson acknowledged that she was an intermediary in the drug trafficking organization, but said she did not actually make deals or sell drugs.

Johnson became a grandmother and great-grandmother while imprisoned. She exhibited good behavior in prison. In a memoir written after her release, she wrote that she served time at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, the federal prison hospital in Texas, where she became a certified hospice worker, and was subsequently transferred to FCI Aliceville to be closer to family. In letters supporting her bid for clemency, staff members at FCI Aliceville wrote that Johnson did not commit any disciplinary infractions during her incarceration at FCI Aliceville. Johnson participated in a pilot program, introduced in 2016 by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, that provided videoconferencing access to certain female federal prisoners. The program allowed the online publication Mic to record a video interview with her that went viral and brought her cause to public attention. She also used Skype while imprisoned to speak at Hunter College, Yale, and other audiences. During her time in prison, she became an ordained minister, and credited her grant of clemency to divine intervention.

A campaign in support of her release was launched by the American Civil Liberties Union and the website Mic; activists who supported her release argued that the punishment was excessive and an example of disproportionate impacts on African Americans. A number of individuals and organizations supported Johnson's bid for clemency, including U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen, Bennie Thompson, and Marc Veasey, law professors Marc Morjé Howard and Shon Hopwood, and Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman. According to her lawyer Shawn Holley, the warden supported her release.

Johnson's was one of the 16,776 petitions filed in the Obama administration's 2014 clemency project. In 2016, she wrote an op-ed for CNN asking for forgiveness and a second chance. Her application was denied just before Obama left office. In 2018, Kim Kardashian and President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner sought to persuade Trump to grant clemency to Johnson. In late May 2018, Kardashian met with the President in the Oval Office to urge him to pardon Johnson. On June 6, 2018, following Kardashian's appeal, Trump commuted Johnson's sentence, and Johnson was released. The commutation was one of a series of acts of clemency made by Trump in a "few high-profile cases brought to him by associates and allies." The Washington Post's Wonkblog described the pardon as somewhat surprising given Trump's past statements in favor of executing drug dealers.

When Trump delivered his State of the Union address on February 5, 2019, Johnson was a guest of the president. Trump asked her to stand up to be recognized, and she received a standing ovation from members of Congress. On August 28, 2020—one day after Johnson spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention—Trump granted her a full pardon. Source.