Staff Writer: Alexandria Weaver 

Imagine you are 16 years old. Your life has been completely turned upside down because you’ve been forced into sex trafficking. What would you do if you believed your life was in imminent danger? How would you escape? 


Cyntoia Denise Brown is an African American woman who was convicted of the murder and robbery of Johnny Michael Allen. Brown claimed that Allen had paid her $150 to have sex with him, and that she feared for her life during their encounter — leading her to shoot Allen. Photo Courtesy: Fox News

Cyntoia Brown, age 16, was a victim of sex trafficking and “belonged” to a very abusive pimp named Cut Throat. Cyntoia was born with a disease called “fetal alcohol spectrum disorder” which is caused by alcohol exposure in the womb. Symptoms include delayed development, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, impulsivity, major paranoia, etc.  

Johnny Mitchell Allen, a 43-year-old youth minister and real estate agent who was clearly interested in a different type of property, solicited Brown in a Sonic’s parking lot for sex, taking her back to his house. Presumably trying to impress her, Allen showed Brown his collection of guns which only made her paranoid.  


Johnny Mitchell Allen, real estate agent. Photo Courtesy: Tennesseean

As the day progressed, Allen tried to make advances on young Cyntoia and due to her paranoia, she denied them. She was uncomfortable. The effects of her disease have become heightened. She began to wonder if sex was the real intent of why they were there. What if he was trying to kill her? Fatality was bound to happen.  

They proceed to his bedroom where Allen begins to take his clothes off. Still very uncomfortable and paranoid, Cyntoia is more hesitant. Allen began to reach on the side of the bed. Brown was convinced this was it, so she grabbed the gun she always carried in her purse and shot Allen in the back of his head.  

In fear of what Cut Throat would do if she returned with no money, she took his wallet and his truck and fled the scene. However, she did anonymously call 9-1-1 to inform them of Allen’s death.  

The Aug. of 2006 a jury convicted Brown, being tried as an adult, of first-degree murder and robbery. Later in Oct., she was sentenced to life and had to serve at least 51 years before becoming eligible for release. She was granted the possibility of parole, however, prosecutors pushed for more time because of their belief of aggravated robbery and other factors in the crime.   

producer daniel birman

Producer Daniel H. Birman captured Cyntoia’s story. Photo Courtesy: emmys.com

PBS released a documentary entitled “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story” in March of 2011. Filmmaker Daniel Birman followed the story to answer the question of what led a girl, who grew up in a reasonable home environment, to a tragic end? The film follows Brown from the week of her arrest and then through another six years of her prison life. 

As time progressed, Cyntoia’s story grew in popularity as more and more public figures learned the details of her case. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, Gabrielle Union, Lebron James, Snoop Dogg and Jesse Williams are rallying behind Cyntoia and using their fame and networking advantages to call for her release. Tennessee House of Representative member Brenda Gilmore says Brown should be set free and should have a timeline for release established.  

kim's tweet

Kim Kardashian’s tweet after learning of Brown’s case. Photo Courtesy: The Hollywood Unlocked

Kim Kardashian met with her lawyers to see how Brown and another woman, Alice Johnson, could be granted clemency. Attorney Shane Holley, a part of the “Dream Team” that represented O.J. Simpson, tells The Blast that Kim asked her to find a way to help them.

shawn holley

Shawn Chapman Holley, defense attorney. Photo Courtesy: Independent.ie

On Jan. 7, 2019, Cyntoia was granted full clemency. She, who is now 30, will be released on Aug. 7 to parole supervision. Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam said, “This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case.” 

Derri Smith, founder and CEO of non-profit End Slavery Tennessee says that Cyntoia is “light years today, as a woman, different from the traumatized 16-year-old that she was.” 

cyntoia brown

Cyntoia Brown appears in court during a previous clemency hearing at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville. Photo Courtesy: CNN

Brown has received her associate degree from Lipscomb University and has been working towards her bachelor’s degree. She’s also teaming up with Tennessee’s Juvenile System to help counsel young people at risk, and her supporters say she’s been a model inmate during her incarceration.  

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