Cyntoia Brown — a sex-trafficking victim who has served 15 years of a life sentence — has been granted full clemency by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, his office announced on Monday. She received her sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was 16 years old.
She is set to be released on August 7.
As CNN is reporting, Brown, 30, will be released to parole supervision. This commutation of her sentence comes after serving 15 years in prison in connection with the slaying of Johnny Mitchell Allen, Haslam’s office said in a statement.
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Haslam said in a statement, according to the Tennessean. “Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.”
“Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions,” the governor’s missive concludes.
Brown’s case has made headlines not only for the crime itself, but also because it drew the attention of several high-profile advocates — including a U.S. congressman, several Tennessee lawmakers, and a host of A-List celebrities, CNN noted. Comedian Amy Schumer, reality TV star Kim Kardashian-West, actress Ashley Judd, and singer Rihanna were among those who called for Brown’s clemency.
Cyntoia Brown, In Prison For Murder, Is Granted Clemency By Tenn. Governor https://t.co/DzJSpOH1EN
— NPR (@NPR) January 7, 2019
Brown thanked Haslam for his “act of mercy in giving me a second chance,” she said in a statement, according to The Tennessean— adding that she “will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”
“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been,” her statement reads.
I encourage and plead with my Tennessee Governor @BillHaslam to grant #Clemency4Cyntoia. Cyntoia Brown was a victim of child sex trafficking, raped and forced into paid sexual exploitation to stay alive. She deserves our empathy and your mercy.
— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) December 17, 2018
The long-awaited decision comes as Haslam approaches his last day in office on January 19, setting a dramatic conclusion to Brown’s plea for mercy, one that has been marked by years of legal setbacks.
In 2004, Brown shot Allen, 43, after he solicited her for sex and took her back to his house, according to CNN. Brown, who had been forced into prostitution, said that she was scared for her life when she shot the man in the head, as they were in bed together.
A juvenile court at the time found Brown competent to be tried as an adult. She was convicted of murder and robbery, and was sentenced to life in prison, the report continued. Since Brown’s conviction, juvenile sentencing guidelines in Tennessee have been amended.
“Our courts today would view her as a child sex slave… she would be viewed as a victim,” said Stacy Case, a journalist who had been investigating reports of sex trafficking in the state, as quoted by CNN.