US attorney fighting request by Alice Johnson to end her supervised release early

Attorneys for Alice Marie Johnson have asked a judge to terminate her five-year supervised...
Attorneys for Alice Marie Johnson have asked a judge to terminate her five-year supervised release four years early, but U.S. Attorney Mike Dunavant says Johnson was a "drug kingpin" and hasn't earned extraordinary treatment. (Source: WMC)
Updated: Jul. 10, 2019 at 6:01 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Attorneys for Alice Johnson are asking a judge to end her supervised release early, but the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee made a strong objection Wednesday.

Johnson, 64, is the Memphis grandmother whose life sentence on federal drug charges was commuted last year by President Donald Trump at the urging of Kim Kardashian-West.

“I’m not missing anything, 'I’ve got plenty of time now that I’m free,” said Johnson when she spoke with WMC last June after her release from federal prison.

U.S. Attorney Mike Dunavant is fighting the request. He filed an eight-page response to Johnson’s petition, saying she wants extraordinary treatment so she can profit from a new book and newfound celebrity status.

Johnson spent 21 years behind bars, entering a new world and meeting Kardashian-West for the first time face-to-face. She later became the president’s guest at the State of the Union in February. In the year since her release, she’s spoken on sentencing reform and written a book that’s currently being made into a movie.

“One of the main things I’ve been doing is fighting for reform,” she said in December. "For prison reform, for criminal justice reform, and I’m so blessed to have witnesses and been a part of the whole movement.”

Johnson’s attorneys filed a motion July 2 in federal court in Memphis where her case originated. They asked a judge to terminate her five-year supervised release after serving only one year.

The motion states: “There is no need to protect the public from Ms. Johnson and she has taken advantage of nearly every educational, vocational and correctional treatment program available in the most effective manner. She continues to better herself and others on a daily basis.”

Memphis attorney Michael Scholl represents Johnson. He says right now she’s not even required to visit her probation officer each moth.

“She’s proven to the president of the United States that she’s rehabilitated herself, done what she needs to do, and she poses no danger to this community,” said Scholl.

But Dunavant strongly objects to Johnson’s request for early release, calling her the “kingpin” of a drug trafficking pipeline responsible for the distribution of 2,000 to 3,000 kilos of cocaine and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds.

“To this day Ms. Johnson continues to minimize her involvement and fails to accept responsibility for her actions,” writes Dunavant. “Motivated now by continued greed for money, fame and celebrity, the defendant seeks to throw off the pesky burden of supervised release, which the Court imposed and the President specifically left intact.”

Dunavant went on to say, “uniformed members of the public continue to celebrate her criminality.”

Scholl disagrees.

“She has paid her debt to society,” he said. “She’s been to jail for 22 years and she has gotten out and done the things she was supposed to do. We are not here to retry the case with them."

Dunavant released the following statement to WMC Wednesday in response to our inquiry for this story.

“The Government’s position and legal reasoning for opposition to the defendant’s motion is self-explanatory in the content of the responsive pleading, which speaks for itself. The position of the Government in opposing the defendant’s motion to terminate supervised release is consistent with and supportive of the President’s explicit order to leave intact and in effect the five-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence. This office cannot comment further on any other offenders from the Western District of Tennessee who may have been granted Executive Clemency relief in the past.”

Johnson currently lives with family in Arizona and is supervised there.

No date has been set for the judge to hear Johnson’s motion.

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