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Monday 19 August 2019

Woman released from prison after case championed by celebrities

Cyntoia Brown’s case was taken up by stars including Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna.

Cyntoia Brown. (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via AP, Pool, File)
Cyntoia Brown. (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via AP, Pool, File)

By Jonathan Mattise, Associated Press

A US woman who said she was a 16-year-old sex-trafficking victim when she killed a man in 2004 has been released from prison after being granted clemency.

Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, Snoop Dogg and Lebron James were among the celebrities who lobbied for Cyntoia Brown’s release, and then-Tennessee governor Bill Haslam agreed in January.

Brown, now 31, will remain on parole supervision for 10 years after her release, on the condition she does not violate any state or federal laws, holds a job, and participates in regular counselling sessions, Mr Haslam’s commutation said.

In a statement, Brown said she wanted to help other women and girls suffering 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 lawyers said she is requesting privacy and transition time before she makes herself available to the public.

Brown was convicted in 2006 of murdering 43-year-old Nashville estate agent Johnny Allen. Police said she shot him 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 US 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.

Mr Haslam said that was too harsh a condition for a crime Brown admitted to committing as a teenager, especially given the steps she has taken to rebuild her life. She completed studies with Lipscomb University as an inmate.

Brown met prison counsellors to design a plan for her release, which will include time in a transition centre and continuing coursework with the Lipscomb University programme, the state Department of Correction said.

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 killing because she was impaired by her mother’s alcohol use while she was in the womb.

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