After spending 15 years behind bars for killing an alleged “john,” sex trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown walked out of prison on Wednesday.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Brown’s release comes after Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted her clemency earlier this year, which reportedly commuted her sentence to parole. Brown will remain on parole for 10 years. She’ll also be required to perform community service, participate in counseling, and obtain work.
According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, Brown met with prison counselors prior to her release on Wednesday. The counselors helped Brown design a life plan for transitioning into the outside world. Part of the plan will include spending time in a transition center and continuing on with classes with the Lipscomb University program.
While behind bars, Brown got an associate degree from the Lipscomb University LIFE program in 2015, followed by a bachelor’s degree, according to the Tennesseean. She graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average.
Brown also worked with the Tennessee Juvenile Justice System to help counsel at-risk children. CNN reports that Brown’s supporters called her a “model inmate.”
“She is light years today, as a woman, different from the traumatized 16-year-old that she was,” founder and CEO of non-profit End Slavery Tennessee, Derri Smith, said last year. “She’s mentoring … troubled youth, working on her college degree, she is planning a nonprofit so she can help other young people.”
In 2004, Brown was convicted of killing Johnny Mitchell Allen, 43. Allen was reportedly a “john,” meaning someone who paid for sex. He took Brown to his house after her pimp boyfriend forced her into prostitution. Brown claimed Allen was being abusive and while scared for her life, she picked up his gun and shot him to death.
Brown told the court that Allen pinned her down, grabbed her private parts and scared her to the point where she thought he was going to shoot her.
“He just grabbed me, like, in between my legs and he just gave me this look. It was like a very fierce look. It sent chills up my spine. I’m thinking he’s going to hit me or do something like that but then he rolls over and he’s reaching to the side of the bed…He’s fixing to get a gun. I grabbed a gun and I shot him.”
Brown, 16 at the time, was tried as an adult in the case.
Brown previously said her early childhood was filled with abuse and exposure to adults partaking in drugs. She was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and her mother, Georgina Mitchell, allegedly began using crack cocaine when Brown was around eight months old, according to a 2011 documentary about Brown, entitled “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.”
“[Cyntoia] was a victim of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She was on the tail end of three generations of women being abused. Her birth mother had been raped and Cyntoia was born from that rape,” filmmaker Dan Birman, who made the documentary, told FOX News.
When Brown was a toddler, Mitchell gave her up for adoption to a woman named Ellenette Brown. While Ellenette Brown provided a more stable home than Mitchell did, Brown never developed the stability she needed in her life, according to the documentary. When Brown was a teen, she ran away from home.
Brown made her way to Nashville, where an alleged pimp by the name of “Kutthroat” or “Cut-throat” quickly figured out that she was a runaway and on her own. He recruited her in with false promises of a better life but eventually began calling her a “who**” and other insulting names.
He later allegedly raped her, molested her, and trafficked her for sex. The forced prostitution eventually landed her at Allen’s home after she met him at a Sonic fast-food restaurant in Nashville.
“He [Kutthroat] would explain to me that some people were born who***, and that I was one, and I was a slut, and nobody’d want me but him, and the best thing I could do was just learn to be a good who**,” Brown said to a judge a during a previous 2012 appeal hearing.
Brown said she met Allen on August 5, 2004, and right away had an uneasy feeling about him. She said Allen kept “standing over her” and later, while they were both in bed, she saw him reach over for what she thought was a gun. Brown said she shot Allen, a former sharpshooter in the U.S. Army, in the head, after fearing for her life.
Brown grabbed two guns from the man’s home, as well as his money before she fled. She ended up at a local Walmart, where she made an anonymous call to police and told them Allen had been shot. Prosecutors argued her motive was robbery, and subsequently, a jury agreed.
Brown was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery in August 2006.
Six years later, Brown’s defense team pushed for a new trial after uncovering evidence about her childhood. In 2014, a state appeals court rejected the request.
In 2015, attorney Kathy Sinback met up with activists and lawmakers in an attempt to pass a law that would review life sentences given to children. In 2016, Tennessee rejected the proposed law, but 24 other states passed, inspired by Brown’s story.
In 2017, numerous celebrities, including, in part, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, began supporting Brown and pushing for her release.
In 2018, Tennessee’s Board of Parole held a clemency hearing for Brown, according to The New York Times. A year later, Haslam granted Brown clemency.
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[Feature Photo: Cyntoia Brown via AP/ Lacy Atkins, The Tennessean, Pool]