Entertainment And News

14 Details About Cyntoia Brown, The 16-Year-Old Sex Trafficking Victim Given A Life Sentence For Killing A Man Who 'Bought' Her

Photo: Jaime Lynn Long / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
14 Details About Cyntoia Brown-Long’s Case, Story & Life After Being Sentenced For Murder

On August 7, 2019, Cyntoia Brown-Long, now 32, was released from the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville. She had been incarcerated since 2004, when, at the age of just 16, she was arrested, tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison for shooting dead a 43-year-old real estate agent named Johnny Mitchell Allen.

One month before Brown regained her freedom, Netflix acquired the rights to a documentary they've now announced will be released on April 29, 2020.

"Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story," is directed by Daniel H. Birman, following up on his previous work documenting her case in "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story."

Birman previously shared part of Cyntoia’s journey in "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story," in 2011. Netflix says the updated version "will tell Cyntoia’s expanded narrative and give additional insight on her years in prison and the path to her newfound fate."

It's not yet clear to what extent, if at all, Brown and/or her now-husband, Christian singer Jaime "J" Long, are involved in the project.


Enraged at the perceived injustices Brown had suffered, a number of celebrities — including Rihanna, LeBron James, Snoop Dogg, Cara Delevingne and Kim Kardashian West — had taken to their social media platforms in order to advocate on Brown's behalf, bringing attention to her case and what they claim is the truth behind her tragic story.

The post that has gone viral shows 16-year-old Brown in her orange prison uniform awaiting sentencing, with this summary of her heartbreaking situation:

"Imagine at the age of 16 being sex-trafficked by a pimp named cut-throat.' After days of being repeatedly drugged and raped by different men you were purchased by a 43 year old child predator who took you to his home to use you for sex. You end up finding enough courage to fight back and shoot and kill him. Your (sic) arrested as result tried and convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. This is the story of Cyntoia Brown, She will be eligible for parole when she is 69 years old. #FreeCyntoiaBrown"

To which Rihanna added: "did we somehow change the definition of #JUSTICE along the way?? cause..... Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life! To each of you responsible for this child's sentence I hope to God you don't have children, because this could be your daughter being punished for punishing already!"

The full story behind Brown's case is troubling, brutal, complex, and tragic.

Here are 11 of the most awful details and facts about Cyntoia Brown-Long, the case against her, and the inhumane incarceration she endured that caused so many A-list celebrities to demand we all pay attention.

1. Depending on who you ask, Cyntoia Brown was either a prostitute or a victim of child sex-trafficking.

Conflicting reports alternatively refer to 24-year-old drug dealer and armed robber Garion McGlothen, aka "Kutthroat," as her boyfriend o pimp.

Some reports claim he put her to work in the "Murfreesboro Road red-light district turning tricks for coke money."

Whether Brown's involvement should garner her the label of either prostitute or sex slave, her advocates state, is irrelevant, because, as Derri Smith of End Slavery TN explains, “[There's] no such thing as a child prostitute or a teen prostitute."

Brown stated that she went to live with "Kut" for a period of approximately three weeks in, during which they moved from hotel to hotel.

When asked why she didn't leave after she shared stories of being beaten, choken, raped, and forced at gunpoint to have sex with other people, Cyntoia responded: "You're not listening. I made him money. He wasn't going to let me go nowhere. He told me he'd kill me. He knows where my mom lives. And I know if a dude choked me until I almost passed out he's not afraid to kill me."

In her testimony she stated, “He would explain to me that some people were born whores, and that I was one, and I was a slut, and nobody’d want me but him, and the best thing I could do was just learn to be a good whore.”

2. The circumstances surrounding Allen's death are messy.

Kutthroat reportedly "forced her to prostitute herself so that they would have money to live, she said. On the day she met Allen — Aug. 5, 2004 — the man she called Cut had hit her and told her to go out and bring back some money."

Based on Brown's testimony at trial, the evening's events are thought to have played out as follows:

"[Allen] showed her his gun collection, telling her he was a former Army sharpshooter. It made her nervous, she noted later. Cyntoia ate dinner with him, watched some TV, and got into his bed. 'He grabbed me in-between my legs — he just grabbed it real hard,' she told the trial court. 'I'm thinking he's going to hit me or do something like it...' Then Allen turned over and reached to the side of the bed. Cyntoia said she panicked, thinking he was reaching for a gun. Convinced she was about to die, she said, she shot him in the head with a .40-calibre handgun that Kutthroat had given her."

During her trial Cythoia further explained her panic, “He was a sharp shooter in the Army. I'm sitting here thinking if he does something, what am I going to do?”

RELATED: Haunting True Stories & Important Lessons From 9 People Who Survived Attempted Murder

3. She may have multiple mental illnesses.

Cyntoia's biological mother, Georgina Mitchell, was only sixteen herself when she gave birth to Brown.

Mitchell testified that she "drank a fifth of whiskey every day while she was pregnant," and her attorneys provided the court with medical scans reported to show signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, symptoms of which include "delayed development and problems in thinking, speech, movement, and social skills," as well as "poor judgment" and difficulty with impulse control.

Despite being placed in the gifted program in seventh grade, she was picked up for theft in 2000, and placed in her school district's alternative school for at-risk student.

While there, "During a psychological evaluation, the examiner was troubled when the girl began speaking in a high-pitched sing-song voice, threatening to kill her father and cursing staff members... Medication, likely Thorazine, was administered immediately."

WebMD details that Thorazine (brand name for Chlorpromazine) is "used to treat certain mental/mood disorders (such as schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, manic phase of bipolar disorder, severe behavioral problems in children). Chlorpromazine helps you to think more clearly, feel less nervous, and take part in everyday life. It can reduce aggressive behavior and the desire to hurt yourself/others. It may also help to decrease hallucinations (hearing/seeing things that are not there)."

Between the ages of 12 to 14, Brown assaulted at least one teacher and "was involved in roughly 20 assaults on other students. At 14, she was placed on a heavy-duty cocktail of psychotropic drugs for depression and anxiety, and she was entered into alcohol and drug treatment.

"In psychological evaluations at the time, doctors noted that Cyntoia often behaved irrationally, suffering from wild mood swings. She had little sense of self-worth, a counselor noted, and she expected others to fail or betray her. Yet she acted in ways that made those expectations reality. She was nearly incapable of trusting anyone, yet she badly desired approval."

4. Although she was only 16 at the time of her arrest, Brown was tried as an adult.

Despite being a minor at the time she was arrested and charged with homicide, aggravated robbery, handgun possession, and criminal impersonation, Brown was tried as an adult.

Newsweek reports that "During Brown’s trial in 2004, she testified that being beaten, choked, dragged and raped was a regular occurrence in her household. She was often threatened at gunpoint. Her legal team argued the trauma of her childhood is essentially what led her shoot Allen after engaging in intercourse with him, which he paid for."

According to BET, many feel that "Brown admitted to shooting Allen, and for some reason, the court system was satisfied with her admission of guilt and did not look at the abusive environment which put her in that situation."

In video recorded statements made at the time of her arrest, however,"Brown admitted to lying about her age when she first encountered her victim."

She is stated to have said that "[while] Allen slept, she left the room, found his gun collection, returned to the bedroom and shot him while he slept. Prosecutors raised the point that Brown premeditated the murder, because the victim was asleep, she had an opportunity to leave and chose not to. Brown later told investigators that Allen had reached for something and she feared for her life, but the forensic evidence didn't support it. Evidence shows Allen was asleep when he was shot dead with a gunshot wound to the back of his head. His hands were underneath his body and partially interlocked indicative of a person who is sleeping. When Brown left Allen's house, she took his wallet, guns, and his car."

In August 2016, the jury found her guilty of aggravated robbery and first degree murder. Two months later, she was given concurrent sentences of eight years and life imprisonment.

5. The earliest release date originally allowed by her sentence would have required Brown to stay in prison until the age of 69.

With a sentence of 60 years to life in prison in Tennessee, Brown is not eligible for parole until she has served a minimum of 51 years, which means should will reach the age of 69 before her chances of release are even considered.

Snoop Dog pointed out the apparent injustice with a post on Instagram comparing Brown's sentence to the ridiculously short 6-month term give to convicted rapist Brock Turner.


A post shared by snoopdogg (@snoopdogg) on Nov 21, 2017 at 8:56pm PST

6. Birman's original documentary about her life aired on PBS in 2011.

In March of 2011, the documentary, "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia Brown's Story," premiered on PBS's Independent Lens series, produced and directed by Daniel H. Birman, who first began documenting the case the week Brown was arrested for Allen's murder. It was later picked up by BBC as well.

Nashville attorney Charles Bone has was inspired to take on Brown's case pro bono after viewing the film.

Her team has been arguing "for a new trial, particularly to allow Brown to testify on her behalf, something that was discouraged by her attorneys in the original case, and to present evidence about her developmental delays due to fetal alcohol syndrome."

RELATED: 11 Best Crime Documentary Movies To Watch On Netflix So Far In 2017

7. In 2011, Tennessee changed its laws based on the powerful documentary.

"The film was so impactful," reports say, "that it helped change Tennessee laws for children like Brown in 2011. Now, anyone 18 or younger can’t even be charged with prostitution. But despite its impact, Brown still sits in jail after a traumatic childhood that led to the fatal incident."

8. While in prison, Brown earned multiple degrees.

In 2017, the New York Daily News reported, "Brown is now 29 and has already been imprisoned for nearly 13 years. In that time she's completed her associate's degree through Lipscomb University's in-jail program, is reportedly working on her Bachelor's and is a volunteer with the Juvenile Justice association."



A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on Nov 21, 2017 at 5:17am PST

Prior to earning that associate degree in Liberal Arts, Brown had earned her GED in 2005. And in May 2019, she went on to receive her Bachelors of Professional Studies in Organizational Leadership from Lipscomb University with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Seriously, the woman is brilliant.

When asked on film, "What did Johnny want from you?" her initial response was "sex for money," but then she thought for amount and shared this instead:

"No. They all wanted acceptance and admiration. Hell yeah. That's what they wanted. My dad wanted to be admired because of the hard work he put in driving trucks and making money and supplying us with the life that we lived. Kutthroat, he wanted to be admired by everyone else on the street, because I remember that one time he said that I was going to work and get him this truck. It was a Suburban on some 26's. He wanted admiration. He wanted somebody to respect him. He wanted people to admire him... Then, you've got Johnny. What did he say? I want a woman to make love with me with desire. Remember I told you that part? Desire. He wants to be accepted. Hell yeah."

9. Brown has expressed remorse for her actions.

Derri Smith shared with Fox 17 News, “She did kill someone, she deeply regrets it, but she was a child and she was being exploited."

During a clemency hearing Brown stated, "I'm not saying I don't deserve anything. I'm asking for mercy."

RELATED: How My Daughter Was Nearly Sex Trafficked Right Out Of My Home (Without Me Even Realizing It

10. Brown wasn't the first female in her family to have been a victim of sexual violence.

Documentary producer Birman told Fox 17 News in Nashville, “This is a young girl who's at the tail end of three generations of violence against women."

Noting that Brown's grandmother and mother were also raped, he concludes, 'She had no chance.'"

In this bizarre clip, her adopted mother (and possibly her paternal biological grandmother), Ellenette Brown, makes classically victim-blaming statements such as, "We have a good relationship. I don't understand why she felt that she couldn't come to me and talk to me no matter what it was," and "No parent wants to think that their young daughter, you know, is experiencing sex. You know, especially at such a young age. And then to find out that there's been many, you know, several boys and men, but it does not change how I feel. That is my daughter. She's always going to be my daughter. No matter what she does or have (sic) done."

Among the many problems with such out-of-touch thinking, this reasoning plainly ignores the fact that the age of consent in Tennessee is 18, and that therefore, even without a gun to her head, the sex Cyntoia was "experiencing" was actually rape.

11. What was done on Brown's behalf.

In her Tweet on Brown's behalf, Kim Kardashian stated:

"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."

In addition to whatever legal help Kim K. supplied, a MoveOn Campaign that managed to accrue 639,151 signatures on a petition intended "for consideration for clemency by the Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam" has now been declared a success by its creator.

12. After being granted early release and a commuted sentence, Brown was released in August 2019.

In December 2018, the Tennessee Supreme court voted unanimously that Brown must serve 51 years of her life sentence before she could be considered eligible for parole. But in January 2019, following public and celebrity outcry, Governor Bill Haslam signed orders granting her an early release and a commuted sentence.

“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16," Haslam said in a statement at the time. "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.”

Under Governor Haslam's new order, Brown will remain on parole for 10 years, during which time she will be required to participate in regular counseling sessions, perform at least 50 hours of community service, including work with at-risk youth, and both get and maintain a job.

In statement released through her attorneys, Brown thanked Haslam "for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me. 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."

13. Brown married Christian singer Jamie "J" Long while still in prison.

Brown met her husband, formerly a singer with the group Pretty Ricky, in 2017, while she was still incarcerated with no certain hope of early release.

"I met my husband in January 2017," she told a New York City audience in October of last year, "and it was at a time where all my appeals had been denied."

She credits Long with bringing her to a placed of newfound faith and peace.

"I remember breaking down on the phone one day, and I felt like my chance [at freedom] seemed to be gone," Brown continued. "It seemed like I was really going to spend the rest of my life in prison. So I was crying and [Jamie] said, 'What did I tell you when I first wrote you? The Lord told me to tell you that you're going to get out. Are you going to believe in man's [word], or are you going to believe in what God says?' So I went on to tell him to teach me, 'How did you come to have this relationship with Him?'

The date of their official marriage remains unclear at this time.

14. Brown's memoir "Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System" was released in October 2019.

In the memoir, which earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Biography/Autobiography, Brown shares her deeply personal story in her own words.

"This whole circus was rigged against me from the start," she writes of her trial. "Facts weren’t facts, not in the courtroom. It was all about which attorney could weave the best narrative, and whichever one sounds better gets your vote."

RELATED: Police Reveal New Sex Trafficking Details About Missing Pennsylvania Teen Corinna Slusser

Deputy Editor Arianna Jeret, MA/MSW, is a former family law mediator and recognized expert on love, relationships and divorce whose work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN, Fox News, Bustle, Parents and more. Find her on Twitter and Instagram for more.