Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has granted full clemency to Cyntoia Brown, an alleged sex trafficking victim serving a life sentence for killing a man when she was a teenager, according to the Tennessean.
Brown will be eligible for release on Aug. 7 based on the 15 years she’s spent behind bars. She will remain on parole for 10 years.
In December, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Brown must spend at least 51 years in prison for killing a 43-year-old man in 2004 who solicited her for sexwhen she was 16. Brown claimed she feared for her life.
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” he told the Tennessean in a statement Monday. “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.”
He added that “transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Under the conditions of her release, Brown must go to counseling, do at least 50 hours in community service and get a job.
“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,” she said in a statement to the Tennessean. She also thanked the governor for his “act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”
Celebrities such as Jada Pinkett Smith and Kim Kardashian West, who used her legal team to look into Brown’s case, took to social media to celebrate the news of her release.
“Cyntoia Brown will be freed!!!!!!! Thank you to @governorbillhaslam and everyone that fought for, shined light on, posted, signed petitions and so on… to make this happen!!!!!” wrote Pinkett Smith.
👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Thank you Governor Haslam 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 https://t.co/rAiru84fgn
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 7, 2019
Bishop Joseph Walker, senior pastor at Nashville’s Mt. Zion church and who has counseled Brown, told EBONY that it was “extraordinary day” and that Brown was “jubilant” about being granted clemency.
“I am incredibly ecstatic on what it means for her after having to endure what she had to endure and what it means for our country and our world,” he said. “She is looking forward to making good on her promises.”
Brown, who received a college degree behind bars from Lipscomb University, said she wants to support social justice issues once she’s out of prison, according to reports.
Below is a statement released by her attorneys and obtained by the Tennessean:
“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.
I want to thank those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Ms. Connie Seabrooks for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb LIFE Program. It changed my life. I am also grateful to those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me over the next several months to help me in the transition from prison to the free world.
Thank you to Dr. Richard Goode and Dr. Kate Watkins and all of you at Lipscomb University for opening up a whole new world for me. I have one course left to finish my Bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in May 2019.”