In 2004 Cyntoia Brown was arrested and convinced in the murder of Johnny Michael Allen. Brown claims that Allen paid her $150 to have sex with him, and she says she feared for her life the entire time which lead to her shooting and killing him in August 2004. Prosecutors painted the picture as Brown killed Allen to rob him of his money. Brown was sentenced to 51 years in prison.
During her first TV interview since her release from prison back in August, Brown sat down with NBC News to discuss her incarceration, and the moment that she found out she was going to finally be a free woman for the first time in 15 years.
“It’s an honor that God has put me in this position. I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Brown said to Lester Holt of NBC. “I fully intend to step into that and to share my experiences as often as I can, with whoever I can, in the hopes that it can bring about more understanding about what goes on in the system with young girls who find themselves in the situation that I did.”
Thanks to the rally cries of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and other notable big names, Brown’s case gained notoriety in 2017, Tennessee governor Bill Haslem then decided to grant her clemency, and commute her original 51 year sentence in 15, which is what allowed her to be released in August of 2019.
Like so many young girls who are caught up in sex trafficking, Brown wasn’t aware that she was a victim at the time. “You meet these young girls who are in these situations, and they don’t view themselves as being pimped. They don’t view their trafficker as their trafficker. They think, ‘This is my boyfriend.’ And that’s exactly what I thought with Kut,” she explained. “I thought, ‘This is my boyfriend. I’m in a relationship. I’m his Bonnie, he’s my Clyde.”
Now that Cyntoia has returned to the free world, she is learning to make the adjustments. Simple things like using a phone, or a modern day computer are taking just a bit of time to get use to. She has also made the adjustment of who she is friends with, she is being sure to keep her circle tight. “I’m in a completely different area socially” she told Essence. “I don’t associate with the same people, which I think is very important when it comes to growing from your mistakes. You have to make difference decisions. You can’t just put yourself back in the same situations. I would never even associate with men like the ones I use to associate with.”
Brown intends to use her freedom for the betterment of society, and for the fight that helped free her. Brown is in the process of forming a nonprofit, the Foundation for Justice, Freedom and Mercy, which will have a mission statement to shed light on the inner workings of the criminal justice system as she puts the two college degrees she earned while in jail, to work. “I’m committed to the same fight that got me free, I definitely think that there’s a need for reform, not just in prison, but in sentencing and the way justice is handed out in our country. I’m committed to fighting for al the other people who are just like me.”