Brown will be released on parole on Aug. 7 after serving 15 years of her original life sentence. In fall 2017, her story was given a national spotlight, grabbing the attention of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and more due to the disturbing details of her case. Brown was only 16 years old when she killed a man who solicited her for sex.
In 2004, Brown was sentenced to life in prison and charged with the murder of a 43-year-old Nashville realtor named Johnny Mitchell Allen. Brown had reportedly been sold to Allen as part of a sex trafficking ring. Due to a series of law changes beginning in 2011, if Brown’s case were heard in 2017, she’d likely be tried as a sex trafficking victim and not an adult. In the past year, people on social media rallied around Brown, calling for her release using the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
In a statement, Gov. Haslam said his decision followed "careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case."
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. 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," Haslam said. "Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions."
Brown released a statement about her clemency. "Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance," she wrote. "I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.
Read her entire statement below.
“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.
I want to thank those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Ms. Connie Seabrooks for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb LIFE Program. It changed my life. I am also grateful to those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me over the next several months to help me in the transition from prison to the free world.
Thank you to Dr. Richard Goode and Dr. Kate Watkins and all of you at Lipscomb University for opening up a whole new world for me. I have one course left to finish my Bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in May 2019.
I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without Him. Let today be a testament to His Saving Grace.
Thank you to my family for being a backbone these past 14 years.
I am thankful to my lawyers and their staffs, and all the others who, for the last decade have freely given of their time and expertise to help me get to this day.
I love all of you and will be forever grateful.
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.