President Donald Trump granted clemency to an Indiana man serving life in prison for a non-violent drug offense just one day before he went head-to-head with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has faced intense scrutiny for his role in the passage of a 1994 crime bill many have condemned for contributing to the wrongful incarceration of black Americans.
In a video posted Wednesday, Charles Duke Tanner, a former professional boxer from Gary, Indiana, thanked the president for granting him clemency.
“First and foremost, I wanna give all the praise and glory to God,” he said. “Thank you for hearing me. But President Trump, I just want to thank you for giving me a second chance and believing in me and reading my petition. I’m just so thankful.”
As it turns out, Tanner has a connection to Trump. Twenty years ago, he said, his second or third fight was at a casino the president owned.
When Tanner, who had no previous criminal record, was arrested in 2004, he was accused of leading a drug conspiracy. He was originally sentenced to life behind bars, which was later reduced to 30 years in prison. Initially slated to be in prison until October 2030, the president ordered his release after 16 years.
Tanner said he didn’t believe it was true — until he was reunited with his now-18-year-old son C.J.
“I lost my mother and my father, but I’ve got him,” Tanner said. “This is what I live for. Thank you, President Trump. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart. All praise and glory goes to God. Thank you. Thank you to the whole Trump administration, because you guys read [my petition].”
Tanner’s case was reportedly brought to Trump’s attention by prison reform advocate and White House ally Alice Johnson, whose own sentence was commuted by the president in 2018. In late August, Trump granted a full pardon to Johnson. The president said at the time Johnson had been serving as an adviser to his administration.
“We said, ‘How many people are like you — there’s only one Alice, as far as I’m concerned — but how many people are like you or your circumstance where they were given this massive sentence, and they’re good people, great people,'” Trump recalled. “And she said, ‘So many. They’re in jail. So many.’ And she’s looking for those people, and she’s recommending those people.”
Tanner was one of five people granted clemency Wednesday by the Trump administration. All five were given overly harsh sentences for non-violent drug- and money-related offenses.
Johnson, who has been very supporting of Trump, said in a statement this week she is “extremely thankful” the president granted the clemencies.
“To see this dream realized,” she said, “I can’t even describe it.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump decided to grant the clemencies “in light of the decisions these individuals have made following their convictions to improve their lives and the lives of others while incarcerated.”
The others released are Lenora Logan, Rashella Reed, John Bolen, and Curtis McDonald.
As for Tanner, his manager, Troy Bly, said, “This couldn’t happen to a more deserving person.”
“Even after a life sentence, Duke never stopped fighting and now he was able to receive clemency,” Bly said. “We can’t wait to get back to the community and help as many people as possible. This is just the beginning, and we’ll continue fighting to bring as many of our people as possible back from prison.”
In his first term, Trump has granted pardons to 27 people and clemency to 16 others. By comparison, during his first term, former President Barack Obama granted pardons to 22 people and clemency to only one.