NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Cyntoia Brown was released early Wednesday, Aug. 7 from the Tennessee Prison for Women, where she was serving a life sentence for killing a man when she was a 16-year-old prostitute.
Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and other celebrities had lobbied for Brown’s release. She was granted clemency in January by outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam.
???????????????????????? Thank you Governor Haslam ???????????????????????? https://t.co/rAiru84fgn
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 7, 2019
Now 31, Brown will remain on parole for 10 years, on the condition she does not violate any state or federal laws, holds a job and participates in regular counseling sessions, Haslam’s commutation says.
Brown released a statement Monday saying she wants to help other women and girls suffering sexual abuse and exploitation.
“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 wrote.
Her attorneys said she’s requesting privacy and transition time before she makes herself available to the public.
Brown was convicted in 2006 of murdering 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen. Police said she shot Allen in the back of the head at close range with a gun she brought to rob him after he picked her up at a drive-in restaurant in Nashville to have sex with her.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. But the state of Tennessee argued successfully in lower courts that Brown’s sentence was not in violation of federal law because she would be eligible for parole after serving at least 51 years.
Haslam said that was too harsh a condition for a crime Brown admitted to committing as a teen, especially given the steps she has taken to rebuild her life. She earned her GED and completed university studies as an inmate.
Brown met with prison counselors to design a plan for her release, which will include time in a transition center and continuing coursework with the Lipscomb University program, the state Department of Correction said in a news release.
Brown plans to have a book published in mid-October and a documentary about her is set to be released this year, the nonprofit documentary film group Odyssey Impact and Daniel H. Birman Productions Inc. said in a news release earlier this year.
Brown ran away from her adoptive family in Nashville in 2004 and began living in a hotel with a man known as “Cut Throat,” who forced her to become a prostitute and verbally, physically and sexually assaulted her, according to court documents.
Brown’s lawyers contended she was a victim of sex trafficking who not only feared for her life but also lacked the mental capacity to be culpable in the slaying because she was impaired by her mother’s alcohol use while she was in the womb.
She Is Coming out With a Degree
“I learned that my life was—and is—not over,” Brown said in a documentary, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” “I can create opportunities where I can actually help people.”
In prison, Brown received her associate degree from Lipscomb University in 2015 and, according to The Tennessean, obtained a bachelor’s degree in the Tennessee Prison for Women in May.
She collaborated with Tennessee’s Juvenile Justice System to help counsel young people at risk, and her supporters say she’s been a model inmate during her incarceration.
“She is light years today, as a woman, different from the traumatized 16-year-old that she was,” Derri Smith, founder and CEO of non-profit End Slavery Tennessee, said last January.
“She’s mentoring … troubled youth, working on her college degree, she is planning a nonprofit so she can help other young people.”
By Jonathan Mattise
The CNN Wire contributed to this report.