By Ella Torres
Cyntoia Brown, the former teenage sex trafficking victim serving life in prison for killing a man who bought her for sex, was granted full clemency Monday by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Brown, now 30, will have her life sentence commuted. She will be released to parole supervision on Aug. 7 after serving 15 years in prison.
"This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case. Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16," Haslam said in a statement. "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."
Brown thanked the governor for his "act of mercy in giving me a second chance." She also expressed gratitude to her family, whom she called her 'backbone.'"
"With God's help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people," Brown said in a statement. "My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been."
When Brown was 16, Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen, 43, picked her up on the side of the road for sex. Brown's lawyers said Allen reached for his gun, prompting the teenage girl to shoot him.
She had been a runaway and living with her 24-year-old boyfriend, a pimp who went by "Kut Throat," at the time.
Brown said during her trial she had been choked, beaten and raped frequently at her home. She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole until 2055.
Since her conviction, Tennessee laws have changed and now state that children are automatically considered victims in sex trafficking cases.
Brown's case garnered widespread attention, with numerous public figures praising Monday's announcement. Kim Kardashian-West, a vocal supporter of Brown, thanked Gov. Haslam. Meek Mill, whose imprisonment for violating parole sparked a nationwide discussion, gave a shout-out "to the people that used their voice.. it really matters," he wrote on Instagram.
While in prison, Brown earned her GED and completed an associate degree program with a 4.0 GPA. She is expected to complete her bachelor's degree program in May.
Joseph Walker, a pastor who has been working Brown for about half a year, said Brown hopes to use her platform and story to help others avoid the hardships she faced.
"She wants to be a leader and fight justice," Walker said. "She really wants to make sure she is a voice for the voiceless."
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