Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Drug Queenpin and Our Opportunistic President

 

I write to set the record straight about Alice Marie Johnson, a drug queenpin whose sentence was commuted by President Trump in 2018, and who was pardoned this year by the President after speaking in his favor at the Republican National Convention.

I knew little about Ms. Johnson’s story before today, though I did see her speech at the convention (linked below). In his post today titled Trump’s Real Record on Race, our friend Mister Bitcoin opens with a discussion of Ms. Johnson’s case, I think.* Here is his description:

As president, Trump pardoned Alice Williams [Johnson], an African-American grandmother and first-time offender convicted on a nonviolent drug offense. Ms. Williams [Johnson] had received life in prison, under Biden’s 1994 crime bill, which disproportionately imprisoned black Americans for nonviolent offenses.

This sounds like a talking point from someone like Van Jones who, perhaps not coincidentally, was cited by Mister Bitcoin as praising the President’s “First Step Act” in the next paragraph of his post. It made me wonder about the actual facts surrounding Ms. Johnson’s case.

From the description above, one would think that poor Ms. Johnson was caught with a dime bag of marijuana in her glove compartment; and who knows, maybe it wasn’t even hers. She’s portrayed as a mild “first-time offender” who committed a “nonviolent drug offense.”

Here is the full text of a February 23, 1997 story in The Tennessean describing the case (link here; emphasis added):

Memphis drug dealer gets life in prison

A 41-year-old Memphis woman was sentenced to life in prison for leading a multimillion-dollar drug ring that dealt in tons of cocaine from 1991-94.

Alice Marie Johnson was “the quintessential entrepreneur,” said U.S. District Judge Julia Gibbons as she pronounced sentence Friday.

“And clearly the impact of 2,000 to 3,000 kilograms of cocaine in this community is very significant.”

Johnson was tried last year on cocaine conspiracy and money laundering charges, along with Curtis McDonald and Jerlean McNeil.

During the trial, evidence showed an operation with Texas-based Colombian drug dealers and their Memphis connections trading tons of cocaine for millions of dollars in cash.

McDonald was sentenced earlier this month to life in prison for his part in the cocaine conspiracy and money-laundering operation. McNeil received a 19-year sentence.

So, Ms. Johnson’s crime was not some minor thing, like simple possession. Rather, she was a queenpin running a cocaine ring responsible for bringing several tons of cocaine into the Memphis area, and laundering the money obtained by these crimes.

How did Ms. Johnson come to have her sentence commuted by President Trump? Well, you see, it’s all about Kanye and his wife. According to this story in USA Today, Kim Kardashian West lobbied the President regarding Ms. Johnson.

Now there are positive aspects to Ms. Johnson’s story. The same USA Today story reports that she was a model prisoner and became an ordained minister. According to Wikipedia (here), the ACLU launched a campaign in support of her release during the Obama administration, but no action was taken at that time. Evidently, they lack the pull of Kanye and Kim.

Here is Ms. Johnson’s speech at the RNC, which was touching:

Returning to Mister Bitcoin’s quote, I also wish to address the end: “under Biden’s 1994 crime bill, which disproportionately imprisoned black Americans for nonviolent offenses.” This sounds like a deceptive BLM talking point, to me. Good, proper criminal laws cause “disproportionate” imprisonment of blacks in this country, for the simple reason that they offend at disproportionate levels. This is well documented in the work of Heather MacDonald and Wilfred Reilly, among others.

As a result, I wasn’t particularly pleased with President Trump’s approach on the issue of black crime. While Ms. Johnson may have been individually worthy, I don’t like the narrative implying, falsely, in my view, that many blacks are wrongfully imprisoned. I don’t like coddling criminals in order to play the race-baiting game pioneered by the Democrats. I didn’t like the First Step Act.

However, for the time being, I’m willing to go along with the President’s strategy. I would prefer an approach based on the truth. But many people don’t seem able to handle the truth about race and crime, or race and other problems, for that matter.

So rather than fighting the deceptive Leftist narrative, President Trump plays it. We live in a systemically racist country that wrongfully imprisons black people for minor offenses, you say? Fine. I’ll take you at your word, says the President. Who passed that crime bill, anyway? Joe Biden? Really? So Sleepy Joe is a racist, just like his running mate said. (Oh, and he seems to be as crooked as Crooked Hillary, too, doesn’t he?)

I’m still not altogether happy with this approach.

BLM delenda est.

* I am not completely sure about my correction to Mr. Bitcoin’s reference, as he refers to the person involved as “Alice Williams,” but I think that I recognize the person from his description as Alice Marie Johnson. I did not find any reference to a convicted and pardoned person named “Alice Williams.” I will make a correction if I am in error.

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  1. Bob Thompson Member

    How does her non-violent crime with its associated money flows and laundering compare with what we are hearing about the Biden family ventures? I suppose I could ask how the Queenpin compares with ‘the big guy’. 

    • #1
    • October 25, 2020, at 5:25 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Flicker Coolidge

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    How does her non-violent crime with its associated money flows and laundering compare with what we are hearing about the Biden family ventures? I suppose I could ask how the Queenpin compares with ‘the big guy’.

    I don’t think Biden dealt with the Colombians. He made a lot more money. And he has avoided conviction for 47 years.

    • #2
    • October 25, 2020, at 5:36 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. Bob Thompson Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    How does her non-violent crime with its associated money flows and laundering compare with what we are hearing about the Biden family ventures? I suppose I could ask how the Queenpin compares with ‘the big guy’.

    I don’t think Biden dealt with the Colombians. He made a lot more money. And he has avoided conviction for 47 years.

    It also doesn’t appear that he is yet rehabilitated.

    • #3
    • October 25, 2020, at 5:39 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Here is the thing: the 1994 Crime Bill was a result of moral panic and the myth of an epidemic of “crack babies,” supposedly doomed from the cradle to grow up as predators. What was disproportionate in the bill was the sentencing for equal weights of cocaine in its powder (preferred by white suburbanites) and “rock” or “crack” form (sold in cheaper units mostly to the urban poor). The Congressional Black Caucus demanded these much harsher penalties to free their communities from what was seen as a uniquely devastating drug epidemic.

    The question is what penalty Alice Johnson would have faced had she been in the powder cocaine trade, supplying upscale populations. In hindsight, her sentence may well have been excessive.

    • #4
    • October 25, 2020, at 5:45 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  5. Bob Thompson Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: I don’t like the narrative implying — falsely, in my view — that many blacks are wrongfully imprisoned.

    I have seen it reported that Kamala Harris, as AG of California, somehow impeded efforts for convicted criminals (I guess mostly black men) to have DNA tests done and possibly allowed in evidence where they might be absolved of the crime for which they were convicted. I’ve seen cases reported like this a few times and I wonder if these convictions occur because of errors made in eyewitness accounts of identification.

    • #5
    • October 25, 2020, at 6:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Mark Camp Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    How does her non-violent crime with its associated money flows and laundering compare with what we are hearing about the Biden family ventures? I suppose I could ask how the Queenpin compares with ‘the big guy’.

    Huh?!?!

    What in heaven’s name is the relevance of the Biden family ventures to this article?

    They have no more to do with this criminal, or the point Jerry was making about the pardon, than the Al Capone ventures.

    • #6
    • October 25, 2020, at 6:02 PM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. Flicker Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    How does her non-violent crime with its associated money flows and laundering compare with what we are hearing about the Biden family ventures? I suppose I could ask how the Queenpin compares with ‘the big guy’.

    Huh?!?!

    What in heaven’s name is the relevance of the Biden family ventures to this article?

    They have no more to do with this criminal, or the point Jerry was making about the pardon, than the Al Capone ventures.

    Wasn’t she sentenced to life under Biden’s crack cocaine crime bill?

    And Biden made more money being more corrupt.

    • #7
    • October 25, 2020, at 6:18 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Bob Thompson Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    How does her non-violent crime with its associated money flows and laundering compare with what we are hearing about the Biden family ventures? I suppose I could ask how the Queenpin compares with ‘the big guy’.

    Huh?!?!

    What in heaven’s name is the relevance of the Biden family ventures to this article?

    They have no more to do with this criminal than the Al Capone ventures.

    There are three parts here. Large dollar money flows, money laundering, and crime. From what I have heard all these elements are in play in both cases and charges or potential charges don’t involve violence to persons. The Queenpin case conviction resulted in a life sentence. The Biden Family case has not been investigated as yet, just barely reported, but it does look real to me and the details might be comparable.

    It sounds like you don’t subscribe to what is being reported about the Biden family’s dealings and what value was passing to foreign entities in exchange for money.

    • #8
    • October 25, 2020, at 6:19 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Here is the thing: the 1994 Crime Bill was a result of moral panic and the myth of an epidemic of “crack babies,” supposedly doomed from the cradle to grow up as predators. What was disproportionate in the bill was the sentencing for equal weights of cocaine in its powder (preferred by white suburbanites) and “rock” or “crack” form (sold in cheaper units mostly to the urban poor). The Congressional Black Caucus demanded these much harsher penalties to free their communities from what was seen as a uniquely devastating drug epidemic.

    The question is what penalty Alice Johnson would have faced had she been in the powder cocaine trade, supplying upscale populations. In hindsight, her sentence may well have been excessive.

    I do not agree with this. Again, it sounds like Leftist talking points. That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, but it makes me suspicious.

    As I understand it, crack is notably more dangerous and addictive than powder cocaine. Also, I’ve heard and read that the penalties for crack and meth are the same.

    I am not an expert on this, so my understanding may be incorrect.

    Further, according to an article I found, the stiffer sentences for crack arise from a 1986 law, not the 1994 law. (I’m on my phone and can’t provide a link.)

    One final point: Clifford, why do you think that Alice Johnson was a crack dealer? The article that I quoted was not specific as to the form of cocaine. It may have been crack, but we don’t have a source for that.

    • #9
    • October 25, 2020, at 9:51 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. The Reticulator Member

    Should Donald Trump pardon Joe Biden before he leaves office (in 2025)?

    • #10
    • October 25, 2020, at 10:31 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Manny Member

    She was no angel back then, but she did serve 21 years. That’s still pretty substantial, especially if it wasn’t a violent crime. There are murderers who serve less than that.

    • #11
    • October 26, 2020, at 12:21 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. StephensJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am not at all happy with the Trump moves on crime. Can’t always get what you want 

    • #12
    • October 26, 2020, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Here is the thing: the 1994 Crime Bill was a result of moral panic…

    Listen to the Coach Tea podcast here on Ricochet:

    https://ricochet.com/podcast/walk-ins-welcome-bridget-phetasy/coach-tea-says-blm-is-a-white-cult/

    The transcript is here:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qlnlQD5w8zA7ACT46Crdt5SZXo3q-eZy/view

    It’s from almost 5 months ago. It explains that when crime is high the black community wants more police, but when it isn’t they want more black men out of jail.

    He mentions several examples where the black community wants one thing, but decides that they immediately want the other thing.

    “…Whatever’s happening in 2020 to black people, they asked for it in 1960. And it’s gotten to the point where we have to realize that maybe these solutions need to be personal and they don’t need to be legislated…”

    “…that ominous bill that Clinton passed that the three strikes law that came from the black caucus ’cause the black caucus was like, “Hey dude, our community is telling us ‘that we’re tired of these black people acting crazy.'”

    “…in the ’60s, people said we wanted equal housing. It’s like, all right, well, we gave you housing but we stacked you all up stupid, 60 stories, a bunch of poor people and now you have gangs and you have that kinda fall out. So it’s like the solution has to be personal but a lot of what’s going on in 2020 is because we’re asking for solution for broad legislative solutions and then we actually kinda created some of the issue and not to mention the culture of hip hop.”

    He says to listen to the straight black voices NOT in the entertainment community. I think I would include college campuses too. When was the last time the media talked to a black leader who was just a businessman or something like that?

    • #13
    • October 26, 2020, at 12:51 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. cdor Member
    cdorJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think your conclusion @arizonaconservative is correct. Trump has made this move to try to disrupt the mistrust developed over generations that the Black community has been trained to have for Republicans. It’s misplaced mistrust, but it is nearly ubiquitous. I also believe that @cliffordbrown is on the money when he stated that the ’94 bill created much harsher penalties for the “crack” version of cocaine, apparently much more popular with Blacks than the white powder form of cocaine. I can tell you for an absolute fact that it takes very little effort to change powder cocaine to “crack” cocaine, which is basically just reversing the manufacturing process by “cooking” the powder with something as readily available as baking soda. Any differentiation in penalties is absurd. OTOH, I have never seen it mentioned which form of Cocaine Ms. Williams was trafficking. It doesn’t matter. As @manny said, she did serve 21 years and was a model prisoner. She also makes a great protagonist and if there is anything that the President needs, it’s more of those. 

    • #14
    • October 26, 2020, at 1:11 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Tonguetied Fred Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Here is the thing: the 1994 Crime Bill was a result of moral panic and the myth of an epidemic of “crack babies,” supposedly doomed from the cradle to grow up as predators.

    My take is that the 1994 Crime Bill was not due to moral panic but due to a very real epidemic of crime and drugs. The problem is that the Crime Bill was successful in curbing crime and drugs (though I find many of the practices flowing out of our war on drugs extremely dubious) but rather than looking at the success and saying, “OK, problem “solved”, let’s start reducing some of the draconian parts of the law”, the idea took root that the practices needed to stay in place until it was solved for real.
    Conservative thought is that life is a series of trade offs and you will never solve any problem completely. But rather than taking stock, taking a step back, and taking steps to ease up on mass incarceration, we kept trying to solve the problem completely. I suspect a lot of that is due to the prison industrial complex wanting to keep the money flowing in from building and running prisons, but there should have been more conversations and consternation at the effects of long term mass incarceration and other aspects of the law and a move back to more leniency once crime rates dropped. But who is going to be elected on the pledge to let more criminals out of prison?

     

    • #15
    • October 26, 2020, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • 1 like