Alice Marie Johnson hails Trump at RNC: 'The nearly 22 years I spent in prison were not wasted'


WASHINGTON — Alice Marie Johnson, whose cause was championed by Kim Kardashian and ultimately earned a presidential commutation, spoke Thursday night at the Republican National Convention and touted President Trump’s commitment to criminal justice reform.

“Six months after President Trump granted me a second chance, he signed the First Step Act into law. It was real justice reform,” said Johnson in her speech.

“And it brought joy, hope, and freedom to thousands of well-deserving people. I hollered ‘Hallelujah!’ My faith in justice and mercy was rewarded. Imagine getting to hug your loved ones again. It’s a feeling I will never forget. And to think, this first step meant so much to so many. I can’t wait because we’re just getting started.”

Her comments echoed those of other Black Trump supporters at the GOP convention. At times, the event strained to align Trump’s law-and-order messaging about Black Lives Matter protests and the ongoing protests following a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis., with Trump’s more moderate messaging around criminal justice reform.

The case of Johnson, a nonviolent drug offender, gained national attention two years ago after reality star (and lawyer-in-training) Kim Kardashian began an advocacy campaign, garnering two meetings with Trump at the White House.

Alice Johnson speaks during the virtual Republican National Convention on August 27, 2020. (via Reuters TV)
Alice Johnson speaks during the Republican National Convention on Thursday. (via Reuters TV)

She used the then-favorable cachet of her husband, rapper (and independent presidential candidate) Kanye West, with the Trump administration as an entrée to the White House, reportedly speaking often with senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner about clemency for Johnson and recidivism more broadly. Kardashian was one of the many voices who helped push the First Step Act in Congress before Trump signed it into law at the end of 2018.

The White House highlighted the act in a splashy Super Bowl ad in February in an attempt to curry favor with Black voters.

After the advertisement aired, she told the New York Times that she was glad to serve as a source of pride for Trump and his administration.

Johnson had been sentenced to life in prison for her role in a nonviolent drug ring conspiracy.

“In 1996, I began serving time in prison — life plus 25 years. I had never been in trouble. I was a first-time, nonviolent offender. What I did was wrong. I made decisions that I regret,” Johnson said. “While in prison, I became a playwright, a mentor, a certified hospice volunteer, an ordained minister, and received the Special Olympics Event Coordinator of the Year award for my work with disabled women. Because the only thing worse than unjustly imprisoning my body is trying to imprison my mind.”

On Thursday night, Johnson said Trump’s move humanized her and reflected the fact that “the nearly 22 years I spent in prison were not wasted.”

“When President Trump heard about me — about the injustice of my story — he saw me as a person,” she said. “He had compassion. And he acted. Free in body thanks to President Trump. But free in mind thanks to the almighty God.”

Despite the support of Johnson and other Black speakers at the RNC, Trump’s campaign faces a steep hill to win over the broader Black electorate. Trump’s approval rating among Black voters is a dismal 14 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.


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