In June, one week after Kim Kardashian met with President Trump to advocate for Alice Marie Johnson’s release, he granted Johnson clemency by commuting her sentence. Now, the reality star and beauty mogul is back at the White House to advocate for the release of another person she claims is serving unfair prison time, Chris Young.
The meeting between Kardashian and White House officials — Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner included — took place on September 5. Van Jones, one-time Obama adviser, and the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo were also reportedly in attendance. Trump, according to CNN, was not.
“The discussion is mainly focused on ways to improve that process to ensure deserving cases receive a fair review,” Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary, said.
Young, like Johnson, received a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense. Young, 30, was arrested at 22.
Ahead of her White House meeting, Kardashian discussed her newfound devotion to prison reform on Jason Flom’s podcast, Wrongful Conviction. She also explained how she spoke with Young, who’s in federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, on the phone.
“Yesterday, I had a call with a gentleman that’s in prison for a drug case—got life,” Kardashian said of Young. “It’s so unfair. He’s 30 years old. He’s been in for almost 10 years.”
“It’s scary when you have a minor drug charge, but then you get life and you’re stuck in this crazy maximum security prison with murderers and people [like that],” the reality star stated. “It’s a completely different environment than the environment that he’s so used to.”
It started with Ms. Alice, but looking at her and seeing the faces and learning the stories of the men and women I’ve met inside prisons I knew I couldn’t stop at just one. It’s time for REAL systemic change pic.twitter.com/kdKr8s6lJW
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) September 5, 2018
Here’s everything to know about Chris Young and his case.
Chris Young was arrested in 2010 as part of a drug conspiracy
Young was arrested at a Shell gas station in his hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee on December 10, 2010. As Vice News describes, he was with three men, one of which was later identified as the leader of the drug conspiracy, Robert Porter.
Police found eight ounces of cocaine and six ounces of crack in Porter’s car and a handgun in Young’s. Ten thousand dollars in cash was found near where Young was standing, and they were within 1,000 feet of a school.
Young served about three years in county jail before his case was heard and he was handed a guilty verdict. According to the Buried Alive Project, his sentencing hearing took place the following year in 2014.
He was found guilty of “conspiracy with intent to possess and distribute 500 grams of cocaine and 280 grams of crack, intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a high school, and knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.”
Chris Young was offered a plea deal and refused
There were 23 total defendants in the drug conspiracy case, and the average sentence given to those who accepted a plea deal was 14 years. The lowest was reportedly two and a half years; the highest, 25.
Young, though, refused the plea deal offered to him and went to trial. He and the two others who chose to go to trial reportedly got life sentences.
“I don’t think fear should be a factor,” Young told Vice News in 2015 of his decision. “I thought, If I lose, I get life. If I win, I go home. It was worth the risk.”
Young had two previous drug-related arrests. Given that he was a repeat drug offender, a provision (called an “851 enhancement“) allowed prosecutors to increase the mandatory minimum sentence to life in prison without parole, according to Vice News.
Chris Young was “low on the totem pole” of a drug conspiracy. Read how he ended up incarcerated for life anyway thanks to drug-free school zone laws: #DFSZ #cjreform #TN https://t.co/J9inJCi3le pic.twitter.com/pyqQJB27mr
— FAMM Foundation (@FAMMFoundation) January 15, 2018
Chris Young’s judge resigned in 2017
The judge who served Young his life sentence, Kevin H. Sharp, resigned three years after the sentencing. He has since denounced mandatory minimum sentences.
In 2014, he described Young’s life sentence as “way out of whack” in comparison to the other defendants involved in the case.
During that hearing, Young prepared and memorized a 25-page speech. It detailed his challenging, impoverished upbringing — a father he never met and a mother who struggled with substance abuse and spent time behind bars — as well as his goals for the future. He revealed that he used to hand out money to the neighborhood kids for good grades on Report Card day, and he reportedly spoke of American history, economic theory, even Greek philosophy.
“If there was any way I could have not given him life in prison I would have done it,” Sharp told the Tennessean in 2017. “Most of the defendants [in drug cases] are not dangerous. They’re just kids who lack any opportunities and any supervision, lack education and have ended up doing what appears to be at the time the path of least resistance to make a living.”
Kardashian said she’s spoken to Sharp, who she claims is fighting alongside her for Young’s release.
Chris Young had an older brother who died by suicide
Due to their mother’s stints in jail, Young and his older brother Robert were often cared for by their neighbor Dorothy Brown-Ogburn, known as “Big Mama.” According to Leaf Chronicle, Brown-Ogburn died on August 29 of this year.
Last year Chris Young told me his biggest fear: His Big Mama dying before he was free.
He’s serving LIFE for a low level role in a drug case. It’s plain WRONG.
— Brittany K. Barnett (@MsBKB) September 5, 2018
It was on New Year’s Day 2007 that Young, then 18, found 22-year-old Robert on their mother’s couch with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
“I felt like the only person that understood all the adversity I’d been through was gone,” Young told Vice News. “I was lost, and I made a lot of bad decisions.”
Chris Young reportedly battles sickle cell anemia
According to Vice News, Young walks with a limp due to sickle cell anemia, which can cause chronic pain, swelling and infections.
“When I was talking to Chris Young … he has sickle cell anemia, so he’s had to have a few surgeries and he’s been in a medical facility for a few years,” Kardashian said during the Wrongful Conviction podcast. “He goes back to the maximum security prison, where lifers go.”
Chris Young is focusing on education in prison
When Young was in county jail prior to his sentencing hearing, he spent a lot of time reading. In prison he still reads — according to Buried Alive Project, he has “at least three books going at all times”
Young reportedly works as a law clerk and tutor, helping prisoners study for their GEDs. He even taught himself coding.
“If I don’t believe I will be free one day,” he says, “then I will never be free.”