A grandmother threw her arms open and ran towards her family in an emotional reunion as she was freed from jail after more than 20 years in prison.
Alice Marie Johnsonâs life sentence was commuted by US President Donald Trump on Wednesday a week after meeting with Kim Kardashian about the cause.
The reality star tweeted: ‘BEST NEWS EVER!!!!â after hearing about the release of Johnson,Â 63, who had spent more than two decades behind bars on a life without parole sentence for a first time drug offence.
She was released hours after the White House announcement and ran into her family membersâ arms.
Michael Scholl, a member of Johnsonâs legal team, said she was released just before 6pm local time from federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama.
Footage from local news station WVTM-13 showed Johnson running toward her family, throwing her arms wide-open and embracing them in front of a crowd of onlookers.
‘Everybody was crying and hugging,â Scholl said.
Moments after her release, Johsnon called Kardashian an ‘angelâ and said: ‘Iâm just so thankful. I feel like my life is starting over again.â
She also thanked Trump ‘for giving me another chance at life and restoring me to my familyâ.
Unlike a pardon, the commutation will not erase Johnsonâs conviction, only end her sentence.
In a statement announcing the presidentâs decision, the White House said Johnson ‘has accepted responsibility for her past behaviorâ and had been a model prisoner, working hard to rehabilitate herself and serve as a mentor to fellow inmates.
‘While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance,â said a statement from the office of White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Attorney Brittany K. Barnett, another member of Johnsonâs legal team, said she felt like she had been ‘resurrected from the deadâ.
Johnson was convicted in 1996 on eight criminal counts related to a Memphis-based cocaine trafficking operation involving more than a dozen people.
The 1994 indictment describes dozens of deliveries and drug transactions, many involving Johnson.
Federal courts including the Supreme Court rejected her appeals.
Court records show she had a motion pending for a reduction in her sentence, but prosecutors were opposed, saying the sentence was in accord with federal guidelines based on the large quantity of drugs involved.
Her clemency had also been rejected by President Barack Obama, who commuted the sentences of hundreds of federal inmates convicted of drug crimes.
Kardashian visited the White House last month to meet with Trumpâs son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is overseeing an overhaul of the US prison system.
She also met with Trump in the Oval Office, a photograph of which the president posted on Twitter.
Shawn Holley, Kardashianâs attorney who accompanied her to the White House last week, said the reality star was the one who broke the news to Johnson.
‘Once Aliceâs family joined the call, the tears never stopped flowing,â Holley said in a statement.