At the urging of Kim Kardashian, President Trump has commuted the life sentence of Alice Johnson, a convicted drug-trafficker. Johnson served 21 years of her sentence.
Johnson was, in the words of the judge who sentenced her, the “quintessential entrepreneur” in a multi-million dollar cocaine ring in the Memphis area. It dealt tons of cocaine for millions of dollars. At Johnson’s trial, the evidence linked her drug ring with Colombian drug lords. She was convicted on cocaine conspiracy and money laundering charges.
Clearly, this was not a low-level drug dealer. Nor should she be considered a non-violent offender. In all likelihood Johnson’s drug ring was responsible for more than a few deaths. Life in prison was just punishment.
Don’t take my word for it. President Obama, who freed between 1,000 and 2,000 federal drug felons, chose not to commute Johnson’s life sentence. I guess he’s less impressed than Trump by Kim Kardashian.
As Daniel Horowitz reminds us, it was only a few weeks ago that Trump was talking about death sentences for drug dealers. “We’re wasting our time if we don’t get tough with drug dealers, and that toughness includes the death penalty,” Trump stated.
“That toughness” does not include commuting the sentence of a drug entrepreneur too culpable to obtain clemency even from Barack Obama. Apparently “keeping up with the Kardashians” means more to Trump than being the tough-on-crime president he promised to be.
The commutation of Johnson’s pardon highlights one positive point, though. There is no need to reduce or eliminate mandatory minimum sentences in order to avoid unjust sentences. Where a sentence is unjust, it can be commuted.
Johnson’s sentence was not unjust, however. Even Barack Obama, liberator-in-chief of federal drug felons, understood that.