Cyntoia Brown, Free at Last: “I’m More Than Just A Moment”
Cyntoia Brown-Long, now 31, spent 15 years in prison after she was convicted of first-degree murder of Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent, in 2004.
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At the time, she was just 16 years old and says a victim of sex-trafficking. She said her pimp raped her and forced her into prostitution, repeatedly raped by different men for weeks. At the time, she said she was fearful for her life with Allen
In her first television interview since she was released from prison, Brown-Long told “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt that she feels like she’s been given a “great opportunity.”
Just last year, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled she must serve 51 years, year 2055, before she would be eligible for parole. This sparked a celebrity-driven campaign from Kim Kardashian West, LeBron James, Meek Mill and Rihanna, who brought national attention to her case. Brown-Long said to Holt the celebrity attention made her nervous.
“I was like, I don’t want the governor to think that, like, I’ve done this, like, to try to kinda, like, you know, push his hand. Like, that could backfire. That can look really bad,” she said.
In January, then Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam commuted her sentence, writing “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.”
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Brown-Long found love in prison, to a man whose letters touched her. She and Christian rapper, Jaime Long, wed earlier this year. In his first letter to Cyntoia, Jaime wrote, “I believe the more that your story gets heard, the more people will start praying for your freedom.”
“I want them to see that I’m so much more than the worst thing that I’ve done. You know, I’m so much more than that moment,” she told Holt.
Now, having returned to the outside world after spending half of her life in prison, Brown is still finding her way. Everyday things like using technology can take some getting used to. As she adjusts, Brown is making sure to keep her circle of friends tight. “I’m in a completely different area socially,” she says in an exclusive interview with Essence.com. “I don’t associate with…