- Sex-trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison when she was 16 for killing a man who used her for sex, has walked free.
- In January then-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted Brown clemency, after Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, and other celebrities lobbied for her release.
- Brown was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 after she was convicted of killing a man who had hired her for sex in 2004, when she was 16.
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Sex-trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 for killing a man who hired her for sex when she was 16, has walked free, eight months after being granted clemency by the state of Tennessee.
Brown was granted clemency in January by then-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam after Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, and other celebrities lobbied for her release.
“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,” she said in a statement to the Associated Press. She said she now wants to help other victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.
Her lawyers said on Wednesday that she is requesting privacy as she transitions back into the world. Brown will remain on parole for 10 years.
Cyntoia Brown was sentenced to life in prison in 2006
In 2006, Brown was convicted of killing 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen, who had hired her for sex in 2004, when she was 16.
At the time, she confessed, saying she killed him because she thought he was reaching for his gun. Police said Brown shot Allen in the head at close range with a gun she brought to rob him with when he picked her up at a Nashville drive-in restaurant.
Brown’s lawyers had said she was a victim of sex trafficking, who feared for her life and did not have the mental capacity to be culpable in the killing because she was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
The harsh sentence handed to Brown was controversial. In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that juveniles convicted of murder could not serve life-without-parole sentences. The state of Tennessee argued in lower courts that Brown’s sentence did not violate the ruling because she was eligible for parole after serving 51 years.
The life sentence drew criticism from celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West, and other celebrities drew attention Brown’s case in recent years, calling it an example of the unjust criminal justice system.
Kardashian West tweeted about Brown in November 2017, saying “the system has failed.” Kardashian West, who is now working toward becoming a lawyer, said at the time that she was consulting with her legal team to see what could be done.
INSIDER has contacted Kardashian West for comment on Brown’s release.
Brown was granted clemency in January and will remain on parole for 10 years
In May 2018, the Tennessee Board of Parole announced it would hold a clemency hearing for Brown. Haslam granted Brown clemency in January, during his last month of governorship.
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Haslam said at the time. “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.”
Tennessee’s Department of Corrections said in a statement to AP on Wednesday that Brown’s release will include time in a transition center and she will continue to her coursework with the Lipscomb University program.
During her 10-year parole, she will maintain employment or educational enrollment, participate in counseling sessions, and partake in community service, the department of corrections said.
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