President Trump grants clemency to Memphis man convicted alongside Alice Marie Johnson

Curtis McDonald
Curtis McDonald(WMC)
Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 5:37 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - President Donald Trump granted clemency Wednesday to a man who spent decades in Memphis' Federal Correctional Institution.

Curtis McDonald, 70, was released Wednesday after his commutation.

McDonald was indicted alongside Alice Marie Johnson and more than a dozen others for drug trafficking and money laundering. Both went on to receive life sentences, but he was the last connected to the case still in prison.

On Wednesday, McDonald was one of five people whose sentences were commuted. A White House news release describes McDonald as a first-time offender with an excellent record of good conduct after more than 20 years in prison.

“Mr. McDonald has made productive use of his time in prison, maintaining employment with good job evaluations, and has completed numerous education courses,” reads the release. “Mr. McDonald has also served as a mentor in the Mentors for Life program.”

The release says McDonald acknowledges he broke the law but says he is “not the same man I was walking through these doors.”

Johnson was freed in 2018 when the president granted her clemency after an appeal from reality TV star Kim Kardashian West. In August, Trump vacated Johnson’s conviction.

Johnson spoke with WMC Wednesday by phone, saying she was excited for McDonald’s release.

“To see this day come is one that I have been working for since I came home myself," she said. “Because it’s really hard to feel totally free knowing that someone else that was on my case was still there. So today is a big day of celebration, a big day of closure too.”

Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, released a statement Wednesday after McDonald’s release, applauding the commutation.

"I’m pleased that Curtis McDonald has been released after 24 years for a non-violent offence and hope that President Trump will free the thousands upon thousands of non-violent offenders deserving of similar clemency. I wrote to President Trump and to President Obama seeking Mr. McDonald’s commutation and it is past time for the prison doors to open for him as they did for his co-defendant, Alice Marie Johnson, in 2018. I know that Alice Marie Johnson asked the President to commute Mr. McDonald’s sentences and it’s possible Kim Kardashian did too. But it shouldn’t take the influence of a reality television star, as happened with Ms. Johnson -- or of a congressman – to see that these non-violent offenders receive the justice long overdue them. I hope that President Trump will use his pardon power to release thousands more before he leaves office, as President Obama did in the closing days of his final term in office.

McDonald is now home with family in Memphis.

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