As Accused Rapists Serve No Time, Cyntoia Brown Must Spend Over Fifty Years in Jail
Cyntoia Brown was sixteen years old when she killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, a man who picked her up and brought her to his home, soliciting her for sex. While men continue to get away with sexual assault with little to no consequences, often even after being convicted, the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that Brown will have to spend 51 years in jail before being up for parole.
Rolling Stone reports that, despite changes to Tennessee law so that minors can no longer be sentenced to life in prison, spurred on by Brown’s case, that change will not apply to Brown herself, who was convicted in 2004. According to Thursday’s ruling, the result of a lawsuit from Brown, she will have to wait until she’s 67 before she can go before a parole board, unless outgoing Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam decides to grant Brown clemency by shortening her sentence.
We reported on the case last year when it came to national attention due to the celebrity advocacy of women like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna. Essentially, Brown had run away from her adoptive family and was living with her 24-year-old “boyfriend” Garion McGlothen, who allegedly raped Brown and forced her into prostitution.
This is a fairly common way that young women end up being victims of sex trafficking, with older men taking advantage of vulnerable girls. The day she met Allen, who was 43 years old, McGlothen told her to go out and bring home money. They met at a Sonic, and Allen brought Brown to his home. What followed, Rolling Stone reports, was:
“The two got into bed after Allen showed Brown some of his guns, but Brown resisted him. When Allen reached under his bed, Brown thought he was going for a gun, so she pulled her own gun out of her purse and shot him. She then took money from his wallet, drove his truck to a Walmart, and left it there.”
Brown and her defense team have said that she was acting out of self-defense and fear that Allen was going to kill her. Prosecutors say that Brown always intended to rob Allen. Brown’s team will appeal the case to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, but as that plays out, she will continue to spend time in prison.
There are so many layers of anger and frustration when it comes to Brown’s case. This young woman, who was being raped and victimized, was given a life sentence in jail for killing a man who also attempted to commit rape (and for all those “age of consent” bros out there, the age of consent in Tennessee is 18 years old). Even if the court decided that she must serve time because she killed Allen, convicting her of first-degree murder is an aggressive choice considering all the circumstances at play.
Yesterday, Jezebel reported that Jacob Anderson, the former president of Baylor University’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity, accused of raping a woman at an off-campus party in 2015, will not serve time or have to register as a sex offender. All he will have to do is pay a $400 fine and receive counseling. This is all part of a plea deal, and if Anderson completes the requirements, he won’t even have a criminal record.
According to KWTX, all the charges he initially faced were dropped for lesser ones because of Hillary Laborde, the assistant district attorney. In explaining why this happened, she wrote,
“I’ve accepted an offer on Jacob Anderson. It’s for probation on the charge of felony unlawful restraint, not sexual assault – therefore, he will not have to register as a sex offender. I realize this is not the outcome we had hoped for or that I had originally offered, but I tried a very similar case to this one last month, and lost. […] In light of the similarities between the cases, it’s my opinion it would be worse to try Anderson and lose and have the entire matter wiped from his criminal history than to accept this plea offer.”
Except that, if he completes his probation, he still won’t have a criminal record, so really, the only way he will be held accountable is if everyone who meets him does an in-depth Google search on him. Vic Feazell, a lawyer who represents the victim’s family, told KWTX, “As a former DA, I never, ever have seen such a sweetheart deal for a defendant like this.”
But Anderson, who comes from a well-off family, has not only the means to fight a case like this, but also sympathy from other men and a court system that makes it difficult for rape victims to get justice.
If you’re still thinking these two cases aren’t exactly comparable, there are plenty of others to draw from. Look at the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who spent her childhood being abused by her mother, Dee Dee, because of Dee Dee’s Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Blanchard went through immense physical and emotional abuse, was made to pretend to be younger than she was, and forced to go through fake medical procedures to keep up Dee Dee’s act.
Gypsy was involved in the death of her mother, with Nicholas Godejohn committed the murder itself. The degree to which Blanchard was involved is still up for debate, but once it became public that she was a long-term victim of child abuse, the charges were quickly dropped from first-degree murder, which in Missouri can carry the death penalty or life without parole, to second-degree murder. She is currently serving 10 years in prison.
Cyntoia Brown, especially as a minor, should have been treated with much more care and consideration by the courts in Tennessee, and all we can hope is that further appeals will be able to give her some justice.
[Author Note: I didn’t explicitly bring up Cyntoia’s race in this piece, because I felt like that was a very clear as part of the reason for the injustice against her and also sometimes as a black writer it is hard to always have to bring it up the seemingly clear, when the evidence should speak for itself. However, I was reminded that there will always be a lack of empathy for young black girls. Cyntoia Brown’s race is part of why she can’t be seen as a victim, who was having her childhood brutally torn away from her and is continuing to be mistreated by the criminal justice system. That can’t be ignored and it shouldn’t be.]
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