Alice Marie Johnson
Freed inmate: I never gave up hope
01:33 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Not long ago, an imprisoned Alice Johnson didn’t know who Kim Kardashian West was. On Wednesday, the former inmate wrapped the reality TV star in a warm embrace, as she met for the first time the woman who helped win her freedom.

“I love this lady,” Johnson said as she hugged Kardashian West at Johnson’s sister’s home in Memphis. The encounter was filmed by NBC as part of a segment that aired Thursday morning on the “Today” show.

Alice Johnson, left, met Kim Kardashian West on Wednesday.

Johnson, a first-time nonviolent drug offender who’d been serving a life sentence since 1996, was freed from prison last week after President Donald Trump commuted her sentence.

That commutation came just days after Kardashian West, who said she became interested in Johnson after seeing a story about her months ago on Twitter, pleaded Johnson’s case to Trump in the Oval Office.

Johnson, 63, and Kardashian West sat together on a couch as they recalled the emotional phone call in which Johnson learned she would be freed.

Kim Kardashian West meets Alice Johnson during an interview that aired Thursday on NBC's "Today" show.

“At first, I thought she (already) knew, because the news was starting to break,” Kardashian West told NBC’s Hoda Kotb. “I said, ‘Wait, you don’t know?’ And she was like, ‘Know what?’”

When Kardashian West told her, screams and cries came across the line.

“I believe she said, ‘You can go home,’” Johnson recalled to Kotb. “When she said that, I went into full-fledged Pentecostal holy dance. I started screaming and jumping.”

President ‘had compassion’

Johnson was convicted in 1996 of conspiracy to possess cocaine and attempted possession of cocaine. She then spent a third of her life in prison.

Kardashian West has said her mission started months ago with a call to Ivanka Trump to plead Johnson’s case and also to ask her for a meeting with her father.

The President’s daughter connected Kardashian West with her husband, Jared Kushner, who took an interest in Johnson’s case, according to Kardashian West.

During the Oval Office meeting with the President, Kardashian West said, she explained “why I believe in her, how people deserve second chances.”

The President “had compassion for her (Johnson) right away,” she told Kotb.

Johnson prays for Kim and Kanye

Johnson was imprisoned long before Karadshian West came to fame, and the former inmate says she didn’t know who the TV star was until recently.

“As soon as I found out who she was, I started getting every magazine I could find. I started reading everything that I could about her,” Johnson told Kotb.

Johnson revealed in the NBC interview that she now prays for Kardashian West and her rap star husband, Kanye West, and keeps a picture of the pair in her Bible.

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Watch Alice Marie Johnson celebrate freedom
01:23 - Source: CNN

“Right now, my prayer focus for you was Psalm 105: ‘Touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm.’ Kim has been anointed to do this, and no one better not touch her, even with their mouth,” Johnson said.

She said thanking Kardashian West was not enough.

“I have to walk my ‘thank you’ out. I have to live it out for her, for my family, for the supporters,” Johnson said.

“I plan on continuing to magnify this issue,” she said later in the interview, referring to the plight of the imprisoned. “I can’t stop. I can’t stop. … I’ve lived it. I walked with them. I cried with them. … My life is completely intertwined forever with those who are left behind. It can’t end here.”

Last week, an emotional Johnson marveled at her freedom after more than two decades behind bars, grateful for a second chance – and craving seafood.

President Barack Obama did not intervene in Johnson’s case during his eight years in office because the Justice Department recommended denying Johnson’s request for commutation. Three requests were made but never reached Obama’s desk because he followed the Justice Department’s recommendations, a senior Obama administration official told CNN.

CNN’s Nick Valencia contributed to this story.