Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted executive clemency on Monday to Cyntoia Brown, who is in prison for fatally shooting a man who was paying her for sex when she said she was a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim.
Haslam is commuting Brown's life sentence behind bars. Brown, now 30, will be released to parole supervision on Aug. 7 after serving 15 years.
"This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said in a statement. "Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. 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, a teenage sex trafficking victim, was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder in Tennessee in 2004 after she fatally shot 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allen.
Allen allegedly brought Brown to his home and paid her to have sex with him — Brown was under Tennessee's age of consent at the time, which was 18 years old.
Brown said she shot him because she feared for her life.
Brown's attorney, Charles Bone, tweeted on Monday thanking Haslam, adding that his client is "a special person and will be an example to many people going forward."
Celebrities including Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna drew attention to Brown's case in late 2017, posting about her story on social media and calling for her release.
While in prison, Brown earned her GED and completed an associate degree in 2015 with a 4.0 GPA, the governor announced Monday. She is expected to complete a bachelor's degree by the end of the year.
"Numerous Department of Correction employees and volunteers attest to her extraordinary personal transformation while incarcerated, which will allow her to be a positive influence on the community upon release," the governor said in a statement.
As part of her parole conditions, she will be subject to special supervision conditions, including employment, education, counseling, and community engagement requirements.