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Trump commutes sentence of drug offender, examining dozens more potential pardons

U.S. President Trump participates in "VA Mission Act of 2018" signing ceremony at the White House in Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for the “VA (Veterans Affairs) Mission Act of 2018” in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By James Oliphant and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who had served more than 20 years in prison on a first-time drug offense, and is prepared to use his constitutional clemency powers to give relief to dozens more offenders, a White House source said.

Johnson’s cause had been taken up by celebrity Kim Kardashian West, who personally lobbied Trump on her behalf last week.

A White House official familiar with the clemency process said that Trump continues to examine the cases of people who he believes have been victims of the criminal justice system.

Trump last week pardoned conservative commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, and has recently granted pardons to the late heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

The president is still considering pardoning lifestyle maven Martha Stewart, who was convicted in an insider trading case, and commuting the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, currently serving a 14-year prison sentence on felony corruption charges, along with several others, the White House official told Reuters.

Stewart and Blagojevich both have ties to Trump’s former “Apprentice” TV shows, but the White House has denied that Trump is only considering pardons for well-known figures and that he is examining several other cases that are less notorious.

“He’s looking at all those seriously,” Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, told reporters last week. “He takes them seriously because they impact people’s lives.”

Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old from Tennessee, has already served more than 20 years in prison on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. In a statement on the commutation of her sentence, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Johnson “has been a model prisoner over the past two decades.”

Sanders noted that while “this administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance.”

(Reporting by James Oliphant; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

 

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