+
More

Cyntoia Brown, who murdered her sexual abuser at 16, released from prison and will now help other girls like her

Cyntoia Brown, who murdered her sexual abuser at 16, released from prison and will now help other girls like her

Update: Cyntoia Brown has been granted full clemency and released from prison after serving 15 years for killing a man who bought her for sex at age 16.

Brown requested no media availability on the day of her release (smart girl), but released this public statement:

"While first giving honor to God who made all of this possible, I would also like to thank my many supporters who have spoken on my behalf and prayed for me. I'm blessed to have a very supportive family and friends to support me in the days to come. I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation. I thank Governor and First Lady Haslam for their vote of confidence in me and with the Lord's help I will make them as well as the rest of my supporters proud."

Welcome back to freedom, Cyntoia.

Brown's case has tested the limits of our justice system and gained the attention of criminal justice reform advocates and celebrities alike. Here's a rundown of the basics of her case:

Brown was born to a mother who abused drugs and alcohol and placed her up for adoption. As a teen, Brown ran away from her adoptive family and was taken in by a pimp who raped her and forced her into prostitution. In 2004, a 43-year-old real estate agent, Johnny Allen, paid $150 to have sex with Brown—then 16—and took her to his home.


Brown claims that she thought the man was going to kill her, so she shot him. Prosecutors claim she killed the man in his sleep in order to steal from him, as she took money, firearms, and the man's car when she fled the murder scene.

Despite being a minor and an alleged victim of sex trafficking, Brown was tried as an adult, found guilty of murder, and sentenced to life in prison. Under Tennessee law, her first chance at parole would not arrive until 2055—when Brown would be in her late 60s.

But as one of his final acts in office, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam has granted Brown full clemency. Brown was released from prison on August 7, 2019 and will live under supervised parole for ten years.

Brown's case raised important questions about how we administer justice when convicted criminals are victims themselves—especially when they are underaged.

RELATED: This real-life hero dove into the child sex slave trade so he could rescue kids from it

There is no question that Brown killed Allen. The question is how she should pay for that crime when she was legally a child at the time and the victim of multiple crimes herself. At 16, Brown was under the control of a violent pimp known as "Kut Throat," who raped her himself and was trafficking her for sex. The age of consent in Tennessee was (and still is) 18, so Allen was guilty not only of soliciting Brown as a prostitute, but also of raping her.

Should a child who has been exploited and victimized in so many ways pay the same price as an adult? In a truly just system, would a child who was the victim of heinous crimes not be granted some grace for killing someone who played an active role in her victimization?

These are the questions about Brown's case that drew advocates from across the social justice landscape to defend her as a sex trafficking victim, including Rihanna, Lebron James, and Amy Schumer.

Brown says she will use her freedom to help young girls avoid finding themselves in situations like hers.

Governor Haslam said in a statement regarding his clemency order:

“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."

Those conditions include undergoing counseling, getting a job, and completing community service hours.

RELATED: 5 myths about putting people in prison and what actually works

Brown has spent part of her 15 years in prison studying, earning excellent grades in her courses, and is slated to complete her bachelor's degree from Lipscomb University in May 2019.

In a statement, Brown said, “Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me." She also thanked "those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging..."

Brown hopes to make a difference in the lives of girls who may find themselves in circumstances like hers. "With God's help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people," she said. "My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been."

Imprisonment is meant to keep civilized society safe from dangerous criminals. Clearly this woman is not a danger to society, and keeping her behind bars would be a gross misuse of our justice system. Kudos to Governor Haslam for doing the right thing, and best of luck to Ms. Brown with her newfound freedom.

Finally, someone explains why we all need subtitles

It seems everyone needs subtitles nowadays in order to "hear" the television. This is something that has become more common over the past decade and it's caused people to question if their hearing is going bad or if perhaps actors have gotten lazy with enunciation.

So if you've been wondering if it's just you who needs subtitles in order to watch the latest marathon-worthy show, worry no more. Vox video producer Edward Vega interviewed dialogue editor Austin Olivia Kendrick to get to the bottom of why we can't seem to make out what the actors are saying anymore. It turns out it's technology's fault, and to get to how we got here, Vega and Kendrick took us back in time.

They first explained that way back when movies were first moving from silent film to spoken dialogue, actors had to enunciate and project loudly while speaking directly into a large microphone. If they spoke and moved like actors do today, it would sound almost as if someone were giving a drive-by soliloquy while circling the block. You'd only hear every other sentence or two.

Keep ReadingShow less

Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson in 2006.

A startling number of professional athletes face financial hardships after they retire. The big reason is that even though they make a lot of money, the average sports career is relatively short: 3.3 years in the NFL; 4.6 years in the NBA; and 5.6 years in MLB. During that time, athletes often dole out money to friends and family members who helped them along the way and can fall victim to living lavish, unsustainable lifestyles.

After the athlete retires they are likely to earn a lot less money, and if they don’t adjust their spending, they’re in for some serious trouble.

In a candid interview with NFL Hall of Famer and TV personality Shannon Sharpe, Chad Ochocinco (legally Chad Johnson) revealed that he saved 80 to 83% of the $48 million he made in the NFL by faking his lavish lifestyle because it made no sense to him.

Keep ReadingShow less
Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

American mom living in Germany lists postpartum support and women are gobsmacked

“Every video you make gets me closer to actually moving to Germany.”

U.S. mom living in Germany shares postpartum support she received.

Having a baby is not an easy feat no matter which way they come out. The pregnant person is either laboring for hours and then pushing for what feels like even more hours, or they're getting cut from hip to hip to bring about their bundle of joy. (Unless you're one of those lucky—or rather not-so-lucky—folks who get to labor for hours only to still end up in surgery.)

Giving birth is hard and healing afterward can feel dang near impossible, especially given that most states in the U.S. only offer six weeks of maternity leave and it's typically unpaid. But did you know that not everyone has that experience?

A mom who had her first child in the U.S. before meeting her current husband and relocating to Germany is shedding light on postpartum care in her new country. The stark contrast is beyond shocking to women living in the U.S. and she's got a few considering crossing the ocean for a better quality of life.

Keep ReadingShow less

Meghan Elinor chimes in on the Starbucks tipping debate.

Tipping culture is rapidly changing in America, so understandably a lot of people aren’t sure what to do when they buy a coffee and the debit card reader asks for a tip. It used to be that people only tipped bartenders, drivers, servers and hairdressers.

Now people are being asked to tip just about any time they encounter a point-of-sale system. There is a big difference between tipping a server who lugged around hot plates of food for an hour-long meal and someone who simply handed you an ice cream cone.

"We're living in an era of inflation, but on top of that, we've got tipping everywhere—tipflation. I take it a step further and call it a tipping invasion. Because that's really what I think it is," etiquette expert Thomas Farley (aka Mister Manners) told CBS 8.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

One moment in history shot Tracy Chapman to music stardom. Watch it now.

She captivated millions with nothing but her guitar and an iconic voice.

Imagine being in the crowd and hearing "Fast Car" for the first time

While a catchy hook might make a song go viral, very few songs create such a unifying impact that they achieve timeless resonance. Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” is one of those songs.

So much courage and raw honesty is packed into the lyrics, only to be elevated by Chapman’s signature androgynous and soulful voice. Imagine being in the crowd and seeing her as a relatively unknown talent and hearing that song for the first time. Would you instantly recognize that you were witnessing a pivotal moment in musical history?

For concert goers at Wembley Stadium in the late 80s, this was the scenario.

Keep ReadingShow less