Though she's grateful to be out of prison, Cyntoia Brown-Long understands her release is painful for the family of Johnny Allen—the man she killed more than 15 years ago while she was allegedly being sex trafficked.
The murder occurred in August 2004, when Allen solicited the then-16-year-old Brown-Long. Shortly after the two arrived at Allen's Tennessee home, Brown-Long shot the 43-year-old in the head, and fled with his wallet, vehicle, and two of his firearms. Brown-Long told would go on to tell the court she acted in self-defense; however, she was ultimately sentenced 51 years to life in prison.
In 2017, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam commuted Brown-Long's original sentence to 15 years, and she was finally released back in early August. Allen's family expressed opposition to the governor's decision, stating: "the judicial system has failed again for victims everywhere."
"The way they feel is completely understandable," Brown-Long said during an exclusive interview with TODAY show. "I don't think that we can tell someone how to feel when they've been through something like that ... They lost a loved-one and I took that person from them. Of course, I would tell them that I apologize. If they would ever want an opportunity to speak with me, I’d be more than happy to."
The TODAY show sit-down marked one of Brown-Long's first interviews since her prison release over the summer. The now 31-year-old is in the midst of promoting her new memoir, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System, in which she opens about her life struggles and steps toward rehabilitation. Brown-Long told TODAY's Craig Melvin that writing the book helped her heal from past trauma.
"It was helpful because everything has happened over the course of 15 years. So I had come to a place where I was like, OK, I've healed from this, I've come to a point where I understand things differently—I really dug into it," she explained. "And then when I put it on paper, it had to take me back to those moments. And I was, like, 'Wow, I didn't know I was still dealing with this.'"
You can see Brown-Long's TODAY interview above. Her memoir is available now.