The Drug Dealer Pardoned by the President to Please the Rapper
Alice Marie Johnson, Donald Trump, and Ye.
Between 1991 and 1994, Alice Marie Johnson managed a multi-million-dollar drug ring based in Memphis, Tennessee, trafficking cocaine that originated in the hands of Colombia’s infamous Cali Cartel. U.S. District Judge Julia Gibbons called her “the quintessential entrepreneur” when Johnson was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in 1997. “And clearly the impact of 2,000 to 3,000 kilograms of cocaine in this community is very significant,” Gibbons said.
Johnson unsuccessfully petitioned President Barrack Obama for early release three times, including one final plea on January 6, 2017. A senior Obama administration official told CNN that the Justice Department denied her request because prosecutors maintained Johnson was “involved in a drug cartel that was connected to violence and crime.” Three short years later, however, she would appear on stage at the Republican National Convention to speak about the need for criminal justice reform. Clemency came after all from an unexpected place: Donald Trump. It was a strange twist for a president who had floated the death penalty for drug dealers.
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Now, new details about the Johnson affair that emerged during a meeting involving Kanye “Ye” West and Trump highlight the disconnect with the former president between rhetoric and reality on crime and punishment and what that could mean as he makes another run for the White House.