Cyntoia Brown, the sex trafficking victim who served 13 years for killing a man when she was 16, has been released from prison.
"Early this morning offender Cyntoia Denise Brown was released from the Tennessee Prison for Women," the Tennessee Department of Correction said in a statement released during the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
As a teen Brown was living in a Nashville hotel with a 24-year-old pimp called “Kut Throat” who allegedly forced her into sex trafficking.
In 2004, when Brown was just 16, a 43-year-old real estate agent Johnny Allen paid for sex with her. After going to his Nashville home and getting into bed together, Brown fatally shot Allen with a handgun she carried in her purse. She said she was acting in self defense and shot him because she thought he was grabbing a gun when he reached his hand under the bed. After she shot him, she took his wallet, his truck and two firearms, according to court documents.
Though the murder happened when she was a teen, Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, and aggravated robbery. Depicted by prosecutors as a cold-blooded killer, she received a life sentence in 2006.
But, over the years, the public perception of Brown appeared to change from cold-blooded killer to victim as her story became more widely known. Brown's case was the subject of a PBS documentary in 2011, "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story."
In recent years, celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and Lebron James have rallied for her release. Kardashian brought major attention to the case in 2017 with a tweet that stated in part, “The system has failed. It’s heart breaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this.#FreeCyntoiaBrown”
Last year, Amy Schumer tweeted at then-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam asking him to grant clemency for Brown. "She deserves our empathy and your mercy,’ she wrote.
In January, Brown was granted clemency.
"Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16," then-Gov. Haslam said in a statement in January. "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."
The Tennessee Department of Correction said in their release that Brown will need to get a job, participate in counseling and be committed to community service. She will remain on parole for the next decade.
Based on her success behind bars, the future looks bright for Brown.
Brown earned both a high school diploma, an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree while behind bars. She also served as a mentor and advocate for other inmates, according to The Tennessean.
"I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation," Brown said in a statement after her release, CNN reports.
An upcoming documentary about Brown is expected to "give additional insight on her years in prison and the path to her newfound fate," Netflix said in a July press release.
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