Trump grants clemency to five backed by ally Alice Johnson

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in Washington. Trump is en route to North Carolina. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday granted clemency to five people convicted of committing drug and financial crimes, all of them cases that were pushed by prison reform advocate and Trump ally Alice Johnson.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday in a statement that Trump was granting the clemencies “in light of the decisions these individuals have made following their convictions to improve their lives and the lives of others while incarcerated.”

The latest round of clemencies comes less than two weeks before Election Day and as Trump has been hammering Democrat Joe Biden over his tough-on-crime record during his time in the U.S. Senate. Biden, as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped shepherd the 1994 crime bill that many criminal justice experts say contributed to harsh sentences and mass incarceration of Black people.

Trump has granted to pardons to 27 people and clemency to 16 others since taking office. Former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, granted pardons 22 and clemency to one person during his first term in office, according Justice Department data.

Johnson, in an interview, said that she spoke to White House officials about all five of the individuals cases and others whose clemency she's backing during a White House visit last month.

“I'm extremely thankful these clemencies were granted,” said Johnson, a Black woman whose life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense was commuted in 2018 by Trump. The president was lobbied to act on Johnson’s case by celebrity Kim Kardashian West. “To see this dream realized, I can't even describe it.”

Johnson, who praised Trump as a compassionate leader during the Republican National Convention, received a full pardon from Trump in August and has been advocating for clemency for several men and women she said ”have served their time and have learned from their mistakes."

The White House declined to comment on Johnson’s lobbying on behalf of those who were granted clemency.

Among those receiving clemency:

— Lenora Logan, who spent about 20 years in prison for her role in a cocaine conspiracy. During her time in prison, Logan served as a suicide watch companion, a nursing assistant for fellow prisoners in hospice care, and a leader of the praise and worship team. She was also credited with coming to the aid of a Bureau of Prisons nurse who was under assault by an unstable inmate, according to the White House.

— Rashella Reed, a former Atlanta Public Schools teacher, who spent six years in prison for wire fraud and money laundering, for taking part in a public benefits fraud scheme. Reed used her teaching background to tutor inmates and advance children’s programs while incarcerated.

— Charles Tanner, a former professional boxer, who had served 16 years of a 30 year prison sentence, for his part in a drug conspiracy. Tanner, who initially faced a life sentence, took part in educational courses and completed hundreds of hours of educational programming. He was also part of an 18-month re-entry program that requires recommendation from staff and approval from the Warden for participation. Tanner, of Gary, Ind., was an undefeated light heavyweight boxer who had been in a televised fight on ESPN at the time of his arrest.

— John Bolen, a small business owner who used his boat to transport cocaine from the Bahamas to Florida, was more than 13 years into a sentence of life imprisonment. The White House said Bolen was described by Bureau of Prison officials as a “model inmate.” He completed more than 1,300 hours of educational programming and vocational training, multiple re-entry programs, and has served as a suicide companion and a mental health companion.

— Curtis McDonald, 70, was a co-conspirator of Johnson’s in a Memphis drug ring. McDonald was about 24 years into a life prison sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering. McDonald maintained employment during his time incarcerated, and completed several education courses. McDonald has also served in the Mentors for Life program.

“He made a mistake, a bad mistake like I did, but it should not be a life sentence,” Johnson tweeted earlier this month about McDonald’s case.


Madhani reported from Chicago.