Brown-Long was convicted of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a man while she was a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim

By Steve Helling
October 15, 2019 05:25 PM
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Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean/USA TODAY NETWORK

Cyntoia Brown-Long, the Tennessee woman imprisoned for killing a man who solicited her for sex when she was a 16-year-old trafficking victim, is speaking out.

In her first television interview since her August release from prison, Brown-Long spoke with “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt. During the interview, she told Holt that her story isn’t unique.

“There’s nothing special about me,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many Cyntoia Browns still in prison. The women who helped me get to this point, they’re still in prison for 51 years and up with ridiculous sentences. And they don’t have hope right now.”

Brown-Long, 31, spent 15 years in prison after she was convicted of first-degree murder for fatally shooting Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent, in 2004.

Brown-Long was serving a life sentence, but had her sentence commuted earlier this year by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Several celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna, have used their social media platforms to shine a spotlight on the woman’s case.

Brown-Long, who was raped several times as the child of an alcoholic mother, was a teen victim of sex trafficking in Tennessee in 2004 when she killed Allen in his Nashville residence.

She said she was forced into prostitution by an older boyfriend who essentially became the underage girl’s pimp, taking the money she made. She admitted she shot Allen in the back of the head, but claimed she shot him in self-defense because she saw him reach for his gun.

After driving to his home, Brown alleged Allen showed her his guns before they got into his bed together. Subsequently, she said, he reached underneath his bed for what she thought was a gun, so she pulled a .40-caliber handgun out of her purse and shot him.

Shelley Mays/The Tennessean via AP

During her trial, it was revealed Brown had waived her Miranda rights, giving statements to Nashville police in which she described the incident in detail.

Brown said she took money from Allen’s wallet as well as two guns before driving his truck to a nearby Walmart parking lot.

The jury rejected her claim of self-defense and found her guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the murder convictions and sentenced Brown to life in prison at Tennessee Prison for Women.

Had Haslam not commuted her sentence, she would have first become parole eligible at 69.

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In her interview, Brown-Long says that she was naive in 2004, when she was forced into a life of prostitution.

“You meet these young girls who are in these situations, and they don’t view themselves as being pimped,” she said. “They don’t view their trafficker as their trafficker. They think, ‘This is my boyfriend.’ And that’s exactly what I thought. I thought, ‘This is my boyfriend. I’m in a relationship. I’m his Bonnie, he’s my Clyde,'” Brown-Long said.

Brown-Long told Holt that she will use her notoriety to help others.

“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,” she said.

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Brown-Long get started with her new life.