Cyntoia Brown, sex trafficking victim who killed a man as a teen, to be released from prison

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Courtesy of CBS

Nashville, Tenn. (CBS) — A woman who said she was a 16-year-old sex-trafficking victim when she killed a man in 2004 is scheduled to be released from prison this week after being granted clemency.

Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and other celebrities had lobbied for Cyntoia Brown’s release, and prior to leaving office earlier this year, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam agreed.

In January, Haslam granted clemency to Brown, a 30-year-old woman serving a life sentence for murder who said she was a sex trafficking victim. The former Republican governor, whose term ended in January 2019, scheduled her release for Aug. 7.

Brown will remain on parole supervision for 10 years on the condition she does not violate any state or federal laws, as well as holds a job and participates in regular counseling sessions.

“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 in his statement.

Brown was convicted in 2006 of murdering 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen two years before. Police said she shot Allen in the back of the head at close range with a loaded gun she brought to rob him after he picked her up at a drive-in restaurant in Nashville to have sex with her.

However, according to her lawyers, Brown was a victim of sex trafficking who not only feared for her life but also lacked the mental state to be culpable in the slaying because she was impaired by her mother’s alcohol use while she was in the womb.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. However, the state of Tennessee argued successfully in lower courts that it was not in violation of federal law because Brown did have a possibility for parole: She was sentenced to serve at least 51 years of her life sentence.

During her time in prison, Brown completed her GED and took college classes. She is currently one course away from finishing a Bachelor’s degree at Lipscomb University.

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.

Through Brown’s legal team, she expressed thanks in January after she was granted clemency.

“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,” Brown said. “Let today be a testament to his saving grace.”

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