Cyntoia Brown Long (born January 29, 1988) is an American woman who was convicted of the murder and robbery of Johnny Michael Allen. Brown, who was 16 years old at the time of the murder, 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 him. Prosecutors argued that Brown killed Allen while he was sleeping in order to rob him. Brown was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. After renewed interest in her case in 2017, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam commuted her original sentence to 15 years, and Brown was released on August 7, 2019. Her story is detailed in the 2011 documentary Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story and in her memoir, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System.
Cyntoia Brown Long was born Cyntoia Denise Brown at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on January 29, 1988. Her father is unknown. Her biological mother drank alcohol during her pregnancy, which Brown's defense attorneys would later claim to have caused her to have been born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Following her pregnancy, her biological mother began to use crack cocaine. Unable to care for her infant daughter, Mitchell placed the child up for adoption. Although raised in a loving home, Brown began to have encounters with the juvenile court system. She spent time with the state's Department of Children's Services between April 2001 and September 2003 after committing "crimes against a person, and crimes against property", according to spokeswoman Carla Aaron. While in custody of the DCS, Brown spent two years in DCS facilities, including a year at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville. She fled these facilities several times, which is how she ended up a runaway on the streets of Nashville in August 2004.
While a runaway, Brown met Garion L. McGlothen (also known by the street name Kut-Throat, often abbreviated to Kut or Cut), who forced Brown into sex trafficking. During this time she lived at an InTown Suites hotel. As such, Brown supported McGlothen and herself via involuntary prostitution. According to Brown, McGlothen threatened, beat, and raped her on multiple occasions.
Murder of Johnny Allen
On the night of August 6, 2004, 16-year-old Brown met 43-year-old Johnny Michael Allen in the parking lot of a Sonic Drive-In on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, Tennessee. Allen was a real estate agent. Based on what Brown told officials, Allen asked her if she was hungry and if she was "up for any action". Brown answered yes to both questions and accepted Allen's offer to take her to his house. Brown and Allen ordered dinner and Allen drove the pair to his home. At a later hearing, Brown testified that she agreed to have sex with Allen for US$150, but claimed that they never actually engaged in sexual intercourse. At some point during the encounter Brown shot Allen in the back of the head using her .40-caliber handgun. She then stole $172 from Allen's wallet, two of his firearms, and fled the scene in Allen's truck. Brown left Allen's truck at a Wal-Mart parking lot and flagged down an SUV for a ride home. Police later found Brown and McGlothen at the nearby Intown Suites.
On August 7, Brown had a neighbor drive her to the Wal-Mart where she left Allen's truck. She asked the neighbor to drive her back to Allen's house so that she could steal more items but he refused. Brown told him that she “shot somebody in the head for fifty thousand dollars and some guns” and that she "shot somebody in the head last night and blew his brains out.” She also told her neighbor that the killing was a “fat lick” (robbery) and that she had been “waiting on a lick like that all week.” After the neighbor told his roommate about the incident Brown called him on the phone and threatened him, saying “you better stop running your fucking mouth about my business or I’ll get to you too.” The neighbors later called police, though they feared retaliation from Brown and McGlothen.
Arrest and trial
Brown was arrested and charged with homicide, aggravated robbery, handgun possession, and criminal impersonation. Despite being under 18 at the time of the killing, she was tried as an adult. This decision came from Metro Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green on November 14, 2004, who argued that it was too much of a risk to the community to keep the 16-year-old in the Juvenile Court System.
Brown never denied shooting Allen; rather, she argued that the act was committed in self defense.
Brown stated that Allen had intimidated her by repeatedly standing over her while she lay in his bed, and that she believed Allen was reaching for a firearm as the two lay in bed. This led her to shoot Allen with her own firearm, which she got from her pimp for her own protection. Police noted that no gun was found under or near the bed. Based on the position in which Allen's body was discovered, investigators believed that Allen may have been asleep when he was shot. Forensics noted that, postmortem, Allen was laying with his hands underneath his head and his fingers interlocked. Allen's gunshot wound had characteristics of those fired at close range. Additionally, gunshot residue from Allen's pillowcase shows that the gun was three to six inches away when fired. This gives credence to the prosecution's argument that the act was a homicide motivated by Brown's intent to rob Allen. Prosecutors took the stance that Brown had not been in danger and that she had murdered Allen in order to steal from him.
On August 14, Brown was taken to the Western Mental Health Institute for an evaluation. According to court documents, Brown attacked and threatened a nurse at the Mental Health Institute after the nurse did not allow her to call her adoptive mother. Brown jumped over the nurse's desk, grabbed her hair and face, and hit her, giving her several bruises and abrasions. During the attack, Brown told the nurse "I shot that man in the back of the head one time, bitch, I’m gonna shoot you in the back of the head three times. I’d love to hear your blood splatter on the wall.”
A recording of a phone call Brown made to her adopted mother while in jail was presented as further evidence against her, as in the conversation she stated of the victim Johnny Allen "I executed him". Brown also spoke to several jail cellmates about the crime, and confessed to killing Allen "just to see how it felt to kill somebody." Her cellmate later gave police a note Brown had given her which said “everything is the truth, I swear it on my life except for ‘I thought he was getting a gun’ and the feeling of nervousness.”
Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to life in prison.
Brown served her sentence at the Tennessee Prison for Women, a maximum security detention facility in Nashville, Tennessee. Under her original sentence, she would have been eligible for parole at age 67. In prison Brown earned her GED with a score of 656 in March 2005, an associate degree in Liberal Arts with a 4.0 GPA in December 2015 from Lipscomb University, and a Bachelors of Professional Studies in Organizational Leadership with a 4.0 GPA in May 2019 from Lipscomb University.
Brown's former pimp, Garion L. McGlothen, also known as Gary McGlothen and Kutthroat, died on March 30, 2005, at the age of 24, having been shot and killed by Quartez Hines. His story was featured in the 2011 documentary, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story.
The producer of "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story," Dan Birman, continued to follow Brown's case and other instances of juveniles sentenced to long terms in a seven-part online video series in 2016–2017, "Sentencing Children," done in collaboration with the PBS series Independent Lens and reporter Anita Wadhwani at The Tennessean newspaper.
While still in prison, Brown married musician and entrepreneur Jaime Long, CEO of JFAM Music, Inc. and co-owner of a Texas healthcare business who performed under the name J. Long and was formerly associated with the R&B group Pretty Ricky. She is now referred to as Cyntoia Brown Long.
Clemency and appeals
On November 21, 2017, Brown's case went viral following several high-profile celebrity social media posts expressing outrage over her sentence. Celebrities that posted include Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, T.I., Snoop Dogg, and LeBron James. In March 2018 it was announced that the Tennessee Board of Parole would hold a hearing on Brown's clemency petition, a move that only 2% of Tennessee clemency applicants see. The public hearing was held on May 28, 2018 at the Tennessee Prison for Women. At the hearing, several witnesses that knew Brown from the prison testified on her behalf, including Lipscomb University faculty, her former prosecutor Preston Shipp, prison employees, local victim rights advocates, and a local nonprofit leader who ran a mentoring group for at risk teens with Brown. Nashville police detective Charles Robinson testified in Brown's 2018 clemency hearing that she was not "...a child sex slave as her advocates would like you to believe. Cyntoia Brown's motive for murdering Johnny Allen in his sleep was robbery."
On December 6, 2018, the Tennessee Supreme Court answered a question of law in conjunction with Brown's federal habeas corpus appeal, stating that she would be eligible for parole after serving 51 years. In response to the Tennessee Supreme Court's ruling, a wave of support resurged that encouraged Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to grant Brown clemency. Letters and phone calls flooded the Governor's office and social media. On January 7, 2019, Haslam commuted Brown's sentence of life in prison to an August 7, 2019 release, plus 10 years of supervised parole. Brown was released from prison on August 7. Haslam said his decision came "after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case" and further stated that "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."
Life after prison
A memoir of Brown's 15 years in prison titled Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System was published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, on October 15, 2019. Both Cyntoia Brown Long and Jaime Long are currently signed with Ambassador Speakers Bureau.
Film, television, and radio appearances
|Year||Outlet||Feature film or episode||Role|
|2011||PBS Independent Lens||Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story||Herself|
|Oct. 15, 2019||Today||"Cyntoia Brown-Long Opens Up About Her Fight For Freedom"||Herself|
|Oct. 16, 2019||CBS News||"Cyntoia Brown-Long on redemption and life after prison"||Herself|
|Oct. 17, 2019||The Breakfast Club||"Cyntoia Brown-Long Talks Meeting Her Husband While In Prison, Healing Post Release, & More"||Herself|
|Oct. 18, 2019||Democracy Now!||Herself|