Things That Matter

Cyntoia Brown Will Be Released From Prison Next Week And Supporters Have Already Started A GoFundMe

After spending half of her life behind bars, Cyntoia Brown will be released from prison on August 7.

The 31-year-old was sentenced to life in prison in 2004, when she was 16 years old, for killing a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex. At the time, she was a sex trafficking victim under a pimp named “Cut Throat.” While Brown was a minor, she was tried as an adult.

The case made national headlines last December when a Tennessee Supreme Court ruled she would have to serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

At the time, celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West, Lebron James, and Cara Delevingne, among others, expressed their outrage on social media, with some advocating for her release and others funding legal support.

“Something his (sic) horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life,” Rihanna captioned a post on Instagram in November 2017. 

Kardashian West, who shared the singer’s post on Twitter, added: “The system has failed. Its heartbreaking to see young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right.”

In January, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) granted her clemency following the mounting pressure.

At the time, Haslan called the sentence “too harsh,” especially considering the “extraordinary steps” Brown had “taken to rebuild her life” in prison.

Derri Smith, founder, and CEO of the nonprofit End Slavery Tennessee agreed.

“She is light years today, as a woman, different from the traumatized 16-year-old that she was,” he said in January, according to CNN. “She’s mentoring … troubled youth, working on her college degree, she is planning a nonprofit so she can help other young people.”

Brown earned her associate degree from Lipscomb University in 2015 and, as reported by The Tennessean, obtained a bachelor’s degree in the Tennessee Prison for Women in May. She’s also been working with the state’s juvenile justice system to help counsel young people at risk.

For many, Brown has been a “model inmate” throughout her incarceration. 

“I learned that my life was — and is — not over,” Brown said in a documentary, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” “I can create opportunities where I can actually help people.”

In 2004, a then-16-year-old Brown was living with a 24-year-old pimp named “Cut Throat,” a man who she said physically and emotionally abused her as well as forced her into sex work. According to court documents, on August 7 of that year, Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen brought Brown to his home and paid her $150 in exchange for sex. While at his residence, Brown said that Allen showed her multiple guns in a cabinet. At one point, she alleges that the man reached under his bed, seemingly grabbing a firearm. Believing he was going to kill her, Brown said she took a gun out of her purse and fatally shot Allen.

Brown long claimed the killing was self-defense. However, the prosecution argued that the motive was robbery since Brown took Allen’s wallet after she shot him. She was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery.

The convictions carried two concurrent life sentences and eight additional years.

According to Refinery29, during Brown’s original trial, she was not allowed to testify. As such, she was unable to present evidence of her traumatic childhood history, including her time under the care of the state Department of Children’s Services, and her neurodevelopmental disorder. 

For her supporters, Brown, a survivor of sexual and physical violence, has been doubly wronged, first by men who assaulted her and again by a state who locked her up in an adult women’s prison for more than a decade instead of protecting her. Many have taken to social media to express their joy over Brown’s impending freedom.

“15 years too long for self-defense the whole world is waiting on your release August 7th you will be free,” wrote one Twitter user. “Freeing #CyntoiaBrown is the Greatest thing I’ve heard all Year!!! She never should’ve been Locked up in the first place,” added another.

Additionally, Brown’s representatives are raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to ensure an adequate start to her new life upon her release.

At the time of writing, the so-called second chance fund has raised nearly $16,000.

As part of the terms of her commuted sentence, Brown, who will be freed on Wednesday, will have to report to a parole officer regularly for the next decade. She is also required to stay employed, participate in counseling and perform community service with at-risk youth.

“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people,” Brown said in a statement shortly after her sentence was commuted. “My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”

Read: 5 Things To Know About Latina Girls And The Sexual Abuse-To-Prison Pipeline

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More Information Has Come Out About the Man Who Senselessly Shot a Young Woman While She Was Walking Her Dog

Things That Matter

More Information Has Come Out About the Man Who Senselessly Shot a Young Woman While She Was Walking Her Dog

Photo via bella_joy_gardens/Instagram

On June 10th, 2020, a senseless crime was committed. 21-year-old Isabella Thallas was shot and killed while she was out walking her dog with her boyfriend, 26-year-old Darian Simon. Simon, who was shot as well, survived.

Almost immediately after Thallas lost her life, the police were informed of the murderer: 36-year-old Michael Close, who lived in the same building as the couple.

Michael Close had shot the couple from his window with an AK-47. Thallas died almost instantly.

Close was quickly arrested and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, and possession of a high-capacity magazine during a crime.

But questions piled up as to why Close committed this crime in the first place. Why did he target the couple? Was the murder pre-meditated? How did this unstable man get his hands on an AK-47?

As the police put the pieces together, the motive was shocking. According to Close, he shot and killed Thallas because her dog defecated in the alley behind his unit.

The story he gave police lined up with Darian Simon’s version of events as well. Simon says that he and Thallas were walking their dog together behind their building. Simon commanded the dog to “poop” when he heard Close yelling at him from the window above them.

“Are you going to train that f—ing dog or just yell at it?” Close allegedly yelled out the window at them. When Simon bent down to pick up the dog’s feces, that’s when Close open-fired out the window. Simon was able to run away with wounds to his lower body. Thallas lost her life.

According to Close’s girlfriend, the man had been mentally unwell for a long time.

He had been diagnosed with depression as well as a personality disorder but refused to seek help. He frequently abused drugs and alcohol after being sober for three years.

The murder of Thallas was a culmination of a tumultuous night where he had been drinking and arguing with his girlfriend for hours. Thallas just happened to be the person who was at the receiving-end of his outburst. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

And recently, some more disturbing information has come to light about Thallas’s murder.

According to Denver Police, the gun that Close used to murder Thallas was taken from his friend, police officer Sgt. Dan Politica.

The close friendship between a police officer and an unhinged murder is, understandably, drawing questions from the Denver community.

The Denver Police Department confirmed that Close and Politica were “close friends”. Thalla’s mother, Anna Thallas, appears to have even more information on the friendship.

“They’re best friends. Life-long best friends for over 20 years. They grew up together,” she told 9News Denver.

Anna Thallas is angry and frustrated that the Denver police aren’t conducting an internal investigation.

The DPD argues that Sgt. Politica did nothing wrong. Thallas points to his failure to report the rifle missing until after her daughter was missing as a massive red flag. It is also worth noting that Politica has a history of violence and disciplinary actions by the DPD.

According to phone records, Close texted Sgt. Politica before the murder complaining about a dog in his neighborhood. After he murdered Thallas, he left Politica a voicemail saying he “really f—-d up bad.”

“That man should be stripped of his uniform,” Anna Thallas said. “Had that officer acted in his capacity and the oath that he took to serve and protect and was a responsible gun owner, Isabella might still be alive. My daughter might still be here.”

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Video Of Miya Ponsetto Proves She Is Hilariously Entitled

Things That Matter

Video Of Miya Ponsetto Proves She Is Hilariously Entitled

Good Morning America / ABC

Updated: January 13, 2021

A 22-year-old woman is getting a major lesson on how being Latino does not automatically grant you asylum when it comes to being racist. Mia Ponsetto

Miya Ponsetto gained national attention and managed to distract everyone from their holiday break this past week when her racist behavior was captured on video. In an incident posted to Instagram the day after Christmas, Ponsetto could be seen attacking the 14-year-old son of trumpeter Keyon Harrold after falsely accusing him of stealing her iPhone.

Miya Ponsetto was taken into custody on a warrant from New York after a brief car chase with police in California. 

According to New York Daily News police used physical force to restrain Ponsetto. “They had to pull her out of the car. They did use physical force,” Eric Buschow, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department explained. “She tried to slam the door on the leg of one of our deputies and so she was forcibly removed from the vehicle.” 

Two officers with NYPD’s Manhattan South detective bureau were sent to California on Wednesday to work with LA police to find Ponsetto, question her and convince her to return to New York with them.

“I have no clue if she’s in custody. I had a difficult day with her. We had an interview lined up, and within 10 to 15 minutes, I realized she was not well, not mentally fit to do any interviews,” Ponsetto’s lawyer, Sharen Ghatan said “So I’m not surprised this has happened if she’s in custody. I haven’t heard it. She was very much MIA for a while, and when she finally came to the big interview, it was clear to me she shouldn’t be there. I’m concerned for her wellbeing.”

Video of Miya Ponsetto fighting with cops during a DUI arrest weeks before her assault of Keyon Harrold, Jr. has surfaced.

In the video of the incident that took place on Oct. 3 outside of a Chevron gas station. Ponsetto can be seen acting out against police officers attempting to detain her after confirming she was intoxicated. Ponsetto’s mom, Nicole Ponsetto, can also be seen.

In the video, Ponsetto resists the efforta of an officer to place her in cuffs.

“I’m not even touching you,” she screams. “You are asking for literally a lawsuit. I didn’t do anything to you.”

“I just think you guys are like a joke,” Ponsetto says at one point while pinned to the ground. “There are gang members that are killing people right now and you’re arresting a girl?”

In a virtual interview with CBS This Morning host Gayle King that took place hours before her arrest, Miya Ponsetto wore a Daddy hat.

During an interview, which her lawyer sat in on, Ponsetto told Gayle King, “I admit, I could have approached the situation differently, or maybe not yelled at him like that or made him feel … inferior, or like I was hurting his feelings.”

Later, as King pressed Ponsetto to admit she had grossly misbehaved, Ponsetto insisted she was just. girl. “OK, so basically I’m a 22-year-old girl. Racism, uh, is … how is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?” Eventually she snapped at Gayle’s questioning saying “alright Gayle, enough!” She even flounced a hand at Gayle while her lawyer attempted to get her to reel it in.

No doubt, Ponsetto’s decision to wear a hat with slang referring to the authority of a man was poorly made. It was also extremely disrespectful considering that she did so knowing that she would be in the presence of a well-known and respected Black journalist who had offered her a chance to redeem herself with an interview. Ponsetto’s hat proves to be a representation of her character: a privileged woman, making no attempts to endear herself to a woman of color who worked hard to get where she is despite the many ways the world has tried to hold her back.

In response to her interview, the 14-year-old Keyon Harrold, Jr.’s parents say they don’t buy her apology one bit.

Speaking to CBS This Morning host Gayle King in a later interview Keyon Harrold, Sr. explained that he felt “her apology was, you know, as genuine as when she shushed you. It said a lot. I have an issue with the idea of entitlement versus character.”

“‘I apologize. Can we move on?’ Those were the exact words that she used with you,” Kat Rodriguez, Keyon’s mother, said in another interview. “Does that sound like an apology? She knew she assaulted a 14-year-old boy. Not a guy, not a man.”

Trumpeter Keyon Harrold shared the video of the incident which took place on Dec. 26 with his phone and shows the woman accusing his son of theft.

The incident took place at the Arlo SoHo boutique hotel where Harrold and his son were guests at the hotel located in lower Manhattan. In the video, Ponsetto can be seen confronting Harrold and his son with accusations of theft. In the post to Instagram, Harrold explained that he and his son had left their room in the hotel to get breakfast and had just left the elevator when the woman confronted them. In the video, Ponsetto could be seen and heard demanding Harrold’s son, Keyon Harrold Jr., to show her his phone.​

In response, Harrold Jr. told Ponsetto “this is my phone” to which ​his father told him that he did not have to explain himself to the woman. Ponsetto then came closer and demanded to an interviewing hotel guest that the case be taken off the phone.

“Literally get it back for me, please,” Ponsetto says in the video to the manager who then asked the teen to see the phone before his father could intervene. “I’m trying to settle this situation,” the manager claimed in the video, to which Harrold explained he was only making it worse.

After Harrold and his son attempt to leave the situation the woman followed after them saying, “I’m not letting him walk away with my phone.”

Security footage shows her tackling Harrold Jr. to the ground. When she approaches them again the teen’s father shouts for her to get ​her hands off of his son before the video cuts out.

In his post to Instagram, Harrold claimed that Ponsetto scratched him and grabbed his son. Harrold later told NBC that after the video cut off, Ponsetto, “tackled my son, you know, trying to reach in his pockets, reach in my pockets.”

According to NYPD, moments after the incident, Ponsetto’s phone was returned to her at the hotel by a ride-share vehicle she used.

Harrold told NYPD that he suffered slight injuries but his son was not injured.

In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” Harrold said that he was ​”shell-shocked​.​”

“I don’t know what would have happened if my Dad wasn’t there, honestly,” ​Harrold Jr. explained before stating that if ever presented with an opportunity to speak to Ponsetto, he’d want an apology.

Speaking about the incident at a rally, Harrold noted that the entire incident was emotionally damaging for his son and could have become even worse had he not been with his son when it all occurred. “I want my son to grow up whole. That’s all we want. … I come from Ferguson and this has been my passport to the world,” Harrold explained, referring to his trumpet and the doors his career in music has opened for him. Harold has played at the White House, and contributed to recordings by JAY-Z, Beyoncé, Anthony Hamilton, Mary J. Blige, and Maxwell. “And I can’t even come downstairs in New York City … and just go get brunch without being attacked and wrongfully accused of something.”

Harrold Jr.’s mother, Kat Rodriguez, also noted that hotel management was culpable in the incident after failing to de-escalate the situation as well as for allowing Ponsetto to leave the scene before police arrived. She also demanded that Ponsetto be charged with assault.

“This fight is not only for our son. It’s for all of our sons and daughters,” Rodriguez explained. “If we were a family that didn’t have these connections … if I was a maid, this story wouldn’t have hit the news. What about those people that don’t get to get heard?”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke out about the incident last Thursday and remarked that the woman should face charges. “You have a teenager here who did nothing wrong, who was clearly profiled because he was young and male and Black,” he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on New Day. “That is racism pure and simple, that is unacceptable in this city, in this country.”

Keyon Harrold Jr. is now seeking therapy for the incident. Harrold told TMZ recently that his son “wonders if he’s good enough to own an iPhone, or whether he’s out of place at a nice hotel.” 

Ponsetto has since disputed the accusations against her using her ethnicity as a defense.

The NYPD is currently attempting to track Ponsetto down for assaulting Harrold Jr. On Jan. 1, the New York Post confronted Ponsetto in a video and asked her about the incident to which Ponsetto replied “I don’t know what the problem is here,” she replied.

When asked once again if she had any regrets about the incident, Ponsetto replied, “I’m good, thank you. Have a very good day. Take care of yourself.” “I’m actually 22 so I don’t know what the problem is here,” she added again. “And I’m also Puerto Rican so thank you. Take care of yourself.”

In a statement, about the incident, Arlo Hotels agreed that “more could have been done to de-escalate the dispute.”

“We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice, and assault against an innocent guest of Arlo hotel,” the statement said. “In investigating the incident further, we’ve learned that the manager on duty promptly called the police regarding the woman’s conduct and that hotel security intervened to prevent further violence …. No Arlo guest — or any person — should be subject to this kind of behavior.”

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