On Monday, Tennessee’s governor granted an early release to Cyntoia Brown, who was a 16-year-old victim of sex trafficking in Tennessee in 2004 when she fatally shot Johnny Mitchell Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent who solicited sex from her.
The order from Gov. Bill Haslam comes after years of legal wrangling in the case, which gained notoriety in recent years thanks to celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna, who have called for the 30-year-old woman’s release.
Brown’s planned release date is Aug. 7, according to a statement from Haslam’s office.
It also comes a month after the state’s supreme court ruled she would have to remain behind bars for at least 51 years.
“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance,” reads a statement from Brown. She will remain on parole for 10 years after she steps out of prison.
“I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me,” the statement continues. Brown adds she is “thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings.”
She also thanked her lawyers, their staffs, and everyone else who has championed for her release.
“I love all of you and will be forever grateful,” Brown said in her statement. “With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”
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Haslam granted Brown a full commutation to parole.
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Haslam said in a statement. “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. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Brown has long maintained she was forced to be an underage prostitute by a boyfriend who then took the money that she would make. She claimed that after Allen picked her up in August 2004, she shot him in self-defense because she saw him reach for a gun while the two were in bed.
Prosecutors have argued she was motivated by her desire to rob Allen. She was tried and convicted as an adult.
Brown had argued in previous appeals that her lifelong imprisonment was unconstitutional under a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which found that juveniles could not receive mandatory life sentences without parole.
The decision comes as Haslam prepares to leave office.
Brown’s case served as the subject a 2011 PBS documentary.
“The system has failed. … I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this,” Kardashian West tweeted last year.