A 40-year-old Texas woman was among nearly a dozen people granted clemency Tuesday by President Donald Trump after her case was championed by a woman who herself got clemency at the urging of reality TV star Kim Kardashian West.
Crystal Munoz, who spent the last 12 years in prison after being convicted on marijuana charges, found an effective advocate in former federal prisoner Alice Marie Johnson.
Johnson, who the president granted clemency in June 2018 and who was featured in one of Trump's campaign ads during this year's Super Bowl, spent years with Munoz at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
They were in the same housing unit and attended church together. Johnson told The Associated Press she came to think of the younger woman as "one of my prison daughters."
"We did a lot of crying and a lot of praying together for things to change for us." Johnson said.
Munoz was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison after being convicted in 2007 of conspiring to distribute marijuana. But she contends her only role was drawing a map others allegedly used in moving the drugs from Mexico to Texas. Her lawyer failed to adequately defend her at trial, Munoz said in court filings.
Munoz gave birth while in federal custody and was shackled during her delivery, according to Amy Ralston Povah, the founder and president of the non-profit Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders Foundation, which advocated for Munoz's release. The bipartisan criminal justice bill known as the First Step Act, which Trump signed into law in 2018, banned the shackling of pregnant women.
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Johnson said that after she was released she could not stop thinking about how to help Munoz, and other women in prison.
The chance came in October when, Johnson said, Trump asked her for a list of others deserving clemency during a criminal justice conference at historically black Benedict College in South Carolina.
"Kim made a difference going to the White House fighting for me," Johnson said, "so if I can fight for something I definitely wasn't going to turn that opportunity down."