Cyntoia Brown-Long hopes sharing her story can prevent what happened to her from happening to other young women. In her first television interview since she was released from prison, Brown-Long tells NBC News that despite the hardships she’s endured, she feels like she’s been given a “great opportunity.” Brown-Long says, “There’s nothing special about me …I can’t tell you how many Cyntoia Browns still in prison,” she said. “The women who helped me get to this point, they’re still in prison for 51 years and up with ridiculous sentences. And they don’t have hope right now.” Brown-Long, 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.
At the time, she was 16 years old and a victim of sex-trafficking. She said her pimp raped her and forced her into prostitution, repeatedly raped by different men for weeks. She did not see herself as a trafficking victim. “You meet these young girls who are in these situations. And they don’t view themselves as being pimped,” she says. “They don’t view their trafficker as their trafficker. They think, ‘This is my boyfriend.’ And that’s exactly what I thought with Kut. I thought, ‘This is my boyfriend. I’m in a relationship. I’m his Bonnie, he’s my Clyde,’ ” She thought Allen reached for what she believed was a gun and shot him with her handgun, which she claimed was in self-defense. In 2006, she was tried as an adult, convicted at 16 of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. She was sentenced to life. She would have had to serve 51 years, or until 2055, before she would be eligible for parole. In January, then-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam commuted her sentence.