Tennessee Activists Ask Governor To Pardon Teen Killer Cyntoia Brown Before It's Too Late

State Senator Brenda Gilmore is pointing to Cyntoia Brown's story as an example of a child victim of sex trafficking being treated like a criminal instead of a victim.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Lawmakers and activists in Tennessee are continuing to band together in their quest to secure Cyntoia Brown’s freedom, asking the governor during a press conference on Thursday to grant Brown her freedom before his term ends later this month.

Brown, now 30, has been serving out a life sentence since she was convicted at the age of 16 for the murder of realtor Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex. While Brown admitted to killing Allen and stealing his money, she claimed to have been forced into prostitution by an older man and said that she shot Allen because she feared that he would kill her, The Tennessean reports.

The group Women for Cyntoia partnered with State Sen.-elect Brenda Gilmore to hold a press conference at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville on Thursday, during which they asked Gov. Bill Haslam to grant Brown clemency, ABC News reports.

“In the interest of justice, Cyntoia should be set free and she should be set free immediately,” Gilmore said. “She’s going to school, got a degree, a role model from all indications. She hasn’t been in trouble since she's been in prison for the 15 years. She’s done everything we want prisoners to do.”

Brown reportedly became a victim of sex trafficking as a teenager when her boyfriend and pimp, a man called “KutThroat,” forced her to begin having sex for money. She claimed to have robbed Allen because she was afraid of what her pimp would do if she returned without it, CNN reports.

Brown was tried as an adult in 2004 and found guilty of murder and robbery. During Thursday’s conference, Gilmore pointed to Brown’s story as an example of a child victim of sex trafficking being treated like a criminal instead of a victim, according to video of the conference shared by Nashville’s WTVF.

“At age 16, she found herself in bed with a grown man. A lot of people have condemned her as being a criminal, and we certainly do not condone any kind of crime — it was a horrible crime — but we have to ask ourselves, ‘What was a grown man doing in the bed with a 16-year-old girl?’”

Brown also has the support of the Nashville Metro Council, who voted unanimously on Thursday to formally request that Haslam grant Brown clemency, The Tennessean reports.

Haslam, who will leave office on Jan. 19, granted clemency to 11 prisoners in December. He said last month that his office was reviewing Brown’s case and would make a final decision before his term ends, Rolling Stone reports.

Brown’s case has gained national attention in recent years, thanks in part to the celebrity interest it’s attracted. Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and Ashley Judd have all used their platforms to support Brown’s bid for release. But while celebrities are speaking out and there are numerous online petitions supporting Brown’s cause that have gained thousands upon thousands of signatures, not all are in support of granting Brown clemency. The lead detective in the case, Charles Robinson, wrote a letter to Haslam advising him not to grant Brown clemency and claiming that her motive in committing murder was not self-defense, WTVF reports.

"First and foremost, Cyntoia Brown did not commit this murder because she was a child sex slave as her advocates would like you to believe. Cyntoia Brown's motive for murdering Johnny Allen in his sleep was robbery,” Robinson reportedly wrote.

Robinson admitted in his letter that he did consider the possibility that Brown shot Allen to protect herself, but ultimately did not believe it to be true, according to WTVF.

“At the beginning of this investigation, I considered the possibility that Cyntoia Brown was justified in killing Johnny Allen,” Robinson wrote in his letter. “At the conclusion of this investigation my findings were that she was not justified in killing Mr. Allen and her only motivation for the murder was robbery.”

[Photo: Associated Press]

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