Cyntoia Brown has been released from prison after serving 15 years of a life sentence for killing a man who picked her up for sex when she was just 16 years old.
Brown was released today, August 7, following Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granting her clemency in January. She will remain on parole supervision for 10 years as long as she holds a job and doesn’t violate any laws.
Brown was sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for the murder of 43-year-old Nashville real-estate agent Johnny Allen. She said Allen picked her up and took her to his house to have sex, but feared for her life when she thought he was reaching for a weapon.
According to court documents, Brown had run away from her adoptive family in Nashville in 2004. After living in a hotel, she was sex trafficked and forced into a life of prostitution by a man known as ‘Cut Throat’ who verbally, physically and sexually assaulted her.
In a statement released on Monday, August 5, Brown said she wants to help other women who have suffered abuse and exploitation.
As reported by Mail Online, the statement reads:
I thank Governor and First Lady Haslam for their vote of confidence in me and with the Lord’s help I will make them as well as the rest of my supporters proud.
I’m blessed to have a very supportive family and friends to support me in the days to come. I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation.
Brown has said previously that Allen had insisted on taking her back to his house. He reportedly said he was an ex-Army sharpshooter and wanted to show off his selection of firearms.
She said that his behaviour made her nervous, especially after ‘grabbing’ her forcefully between the legs.
In a 2011 documentary, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, Brown said:
He just gave me this look. It was, like, a very fierce look… but then, he rolls over, like he’s reaching to the side of the bed or something. So I’m thinking, ‘he’s not going to hit me, he’s going to get a gun’.
Afterward shooting Allen and killing him, Brown took $172 and two of Allen’s rifles, and then fled in his truck.
The US Supreme Court has ruled against life sentences without parole for juveniles, however, in Brown’s case, Tennessee courts argued the ruling didn’t violate any laws as she would be eligible for parole after 51 years.
Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and other celebrities had lobbied for Brown’s release, inspiring the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
Rihanna posted on social media in 2017:
View this post on Instagram
did we somehow change the definition of #JUSTICE along the way?? cause….. Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life! To each of you responsible for this child's sentence I hope to God you don't have children, because this could be your daughter being punished for punishing already! #FREECYNTOIABROWN #HowManyMore
Rihanna’s Instagram post read:
Imagine at the age of 16 being sex-trafficked by a pimp named ‘cut-throat.’ After days of being repeatedly drugged and raped by different men you were purchased by a 43-year-old child predator who took you to his home to use you for sex. You end up finding enough courage to fight back and shoot and kill him.
Gov. Haslam granted her clemency after assessing the case, finding that it was too harsh considering the conditions she was in as a teenager and the steps she has taken to rebuild her life: earning her GED and completing studies with Lipscomb University as an inmate.
Clemency is “an act of mercy or leniency providing relief from certain consequence of a criminal conviction,” according to the state’s Executive Clemency Unit.
The state Department of Correction said that Brown will spend some time in a transition centre and continue her studies with Lipscomb University following her release. Documentary film group Odyssey Impact and Daniel H. Birman Productions Inc also said in a news release that they are planning a film about Brown’s case.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30). Alternatively you can contact Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000. If you are a child seeking advice and support call Childline for free on 0800 1111.
After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.