rie Johnson’s life sentence in prison was commuted by President Donald Trump last year after Kardashian West championed her case.
Alice Johnson, pardoned by Trump, was put away for life under Biden-sponsored bill
By: NY Post, August 27, 2020:
Alice Johnson, the grandmother freed by President Trump on the advice of Kim Kardashian, was sentenced to life in prison by a crime bill that Joe Biden co-sponsored, wrote and championed, The Post can reveal.
As a single mom of five in 1996, Johnson, now 65, was slapped with five concurrent life sentences without the chance of parole on a first-time non-violent drug charge for her involvement in a million-dollar cocaine ring.
Trump commuted her sentence in June 2018 following lobbying from reality TV star and lawyer-in-training Kardashian, and Johnson will speak at Thursday’s 2020 Republican National Convention finale.
But Johnson would never have been sentenced to life in prison if not for a 1986 drug abuse act written by then-Sen. Joe Biden that stiffened penalties for drug offenses and disproportionately targeted black people.
President Barack Obama and his veep also refused Johnson’s pleas for clemency three times, including in the final days of their administration, according to a CNN report.
Biden co-authored the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which allowed judges to sentence first-time felons to life imprisonment for drug offenses exceeding 5 kilograms of cocaine.
Previously, a person could not be sentenced to more than 20 years for cocaine offenses.
Biden was later praised by his Democratic colleagues in the Senate for his “diligence” in making possible a law that also created huge sentencing discrepancies between powder and crack cocaine — a drug more commonly used among black Americans.
The law made it so that someone who was caught trying to sell just 5 grams of crack would be given the same penalty as someone dealing 500 grams of cocaine powder, creating a disparity of 100 to 1.
The then-senator from Delaware boasted about his efforts on the Senate floor and the “striking changes in sentencing law” that he was responsible for.
But by 2008, Biden, on the eve of becoming Obama’s veep, was forced to acknowledge the huge racial disparities his bill created and blamed bad data.
“Our intentions were good, but much of our information was bad,” he said during a judiciary hearing. “Each of the myths upon which we based the sentencing disparity has since been dispelled or altered.”
The septuagenarian lawmaker has faced increased scrutiny of his criminal justice record since announcing his White House bid — particularly a 1994 crime law he authored that has been credited with contributing to “mass incarceration.”
His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), also oversaw 1,900 convictions for marijuana as a San Francisco district attorney.
Along with Johnson, over 2,000 federal prisoners were serving life sentences for non-violent drug offenses in 2018, according to federal corrections data analyzed by criminal justice group the Sentencing Project.
Drug offenders make up nearly one-third of federal prisoners who have been put away for life in the United States.
Johnson has since become one of the faces of the Trump administration’s criminal justice reforms and appeared in the president’s 2020 Super Bowl ad.
The Tennessee woman took to drug dealing as a way to provide for her children after losing her job and has described the move as “the worst decision of my life.”
Johnson and the Biden campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.