NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Cyntoia Brown's time in prison is up this week. Tennessee's former governor granted her clemency in January. The pigtailed 16- year-old was just a child when she went into prison, but now she gets out Wednesday having grown up there.
Brown is getting out 36 years early. She's long admitted she killed Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen. A man, attorneys from both sides, say bought her for sex. She says she killed him out of fear, explaining in her clemency hearing last summer, ”What I did was horrible. There's nothing I can say to justify it. You can't justify it. You can't. I killed Johnny Allen and he's gone.”
While the documentary “Me Facing Life” brought her plight to light, FOX 17 News coverage of her clemency fight first went viral in November 2017 garnering attention from celebrities and sparking the #FreeCyntoiaBrown movement on social media.
Allen's friends have also been vocal even starting a Facebook page to keep his memory alive. Friend Ben Lamb explains, “I would like her to help quash some of the more nasty rumors about him.”
Though the details of her release are under wraps for now, FOX 17 News has learned living arrangements and a support system are in place under her Tennessee Department of Corrections release plan. The plan dictates her employment, required counseling, education and her community involvement.
Derri Smith with End Slavery Tennessee works with women recovering from exploitation every day and explains, “Cyntoia's trauma goes back to birth. She was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She was exploited her whole life. She needs to really bring all of that trauma to the surface and deal with it and have tools for the things that might trigger her when she's out and about or when she's working with troubled youth.”
Brown got her degree in prison, a big factor in her clemency and says she wants to work with young girls caught up in sexual exploitation. Her pro bono attorney Charles Bone asks, “Give her a chance to show what she can do. I think as a speaker, as a writer. She's gonna be amazing.”
Brown made it clear in her clemency hearing that she’s grateful for a second chance saying, “I have no choice but to live a different life.”
Brown has requested privacy Wednesday when she's released, but has this statement reading in part: “While first giving honor to God who made all of this possible, I would also like to thank my many supporters who have spoken on my behalf and prayed for me. I'm blessed to have a very supportive family and friends to support me in the days to come."
Her attorney, Charles Bone, also released a statement reading in part: “When her story is told in much greater detail, the words which describe her success include redemption, education, rehabilitation, salvation, mercy and freedom."