Review by Craig Baguley – In 2004, 43-year-old country singer Johnny Allen was shot and killed by a bullet in the back of his head while asleep. His killer, a 16-year-old streetwalker by the name of Cyntoia Brown, received a life sentence with a minimum term of 51 years. Since her release last year, she has become a cause celebre, an author and a public speaker on prison reform backed by a major agency and publicist. She is also the subject of a new Netflix documentary, Murder To Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story.
The author of this work, Walt Trott, is appalled by the turn of events. Allen was a friend of his whom he first met in 1987 when the North Carolina native turned up at Trott’s promotion offices in Nashville seeking a career in country music. Trott took him on as a client and the future looked bright when his first single, In The Arms Of A Stranger, briefly charted in Cash Box on the singer’s own JMA label, prompting veteran country star Del Reeves to take the newbie under his production wing. As with so many Music City hopefuls, it didn’t happen for Allen but, to compensate, he enjoyed a successful career as an estate agent.
On that fatal August night in 2004, Allen took Brown off the street, bought her a meal, and drove her to his house. To his friends, as a church youth minister, Allen had felt compassion for the juvenile and offered her a secure bed for the night. To others, without a scintilla of proof, he was a sexual predator and pedophile – and that is the verdict that currently stands in the court of public opinion.
Brown’s later pleading that she shot Allen in self-defense contrasts starkly with police and coroner reports that the victim’s posture indicated he had been asleep when shot, and that a couch had been made up as if for a guest, supporting the theory that Allen had been acting as a good Samaritan. The fact that Brown then stole Allen’s wallet, his rifles, and his pickup truck did not help her case. As did not later statements attributed to Brown by witnesses, including that she shot Allen “just to see how it felt to kill somebody.”
In 2019, supported by the MoveOn civic action movement, social media outbursts, celebrity intervention, and religious conversion by Brown, the killer was released by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. (A cynical Trott cited other examples of criminals whose incarceration led them to follow the path of faith to freedom.)
Some would argue that a child of 16, no matter how streetwise, should not be tried as an adult (which she was) and sentenced to nearly her entire life behind bars. It could also be argued that her scarred existence, born to a drug-fueled, alcoholic mother, placed under child care services, rehoused with an adoptive mother and pimped by a gangster named Kut-Throat (shot dead in 2005) were mitigating factors.
Trott, while a supporter of rehabilitation, in this case, subscribes to the policy of “do the crime, do the time” due to the traducing of his friend’s reputation based solely on the word of his killer and the status and benefits now accruing to Brown founded on her murder of Johnny Allen.
The author also rails against so-called celebrities who blindly endorse causes based on sentiment rather than reality. Outrageously, an overly influential nonentity by the name of Kim Kardashian, declared on Twitter, “It’s heartbreaking to see a young girl sex trafficked, then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life!” thereby underlining the dangerous nature of social media where a hypothesis is frequently transmuted into fact and then absorbed by the world at large. (As witness press and media reports on the 2020 Netflix documentary that accept, without question, that Allen picked her up for sex.) Wasn’t it Goebbels who said that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth?
In riposte, a police sergeant involved in the case told Trott, “ . . . it was cold-blooded murder with no remorse, regardless of what you may hear in the media today.” Although a short book, Walt Trott manages to embrace other controversies within its mere 100-odd pages, including the slaying of Opry star Stringbean and a scandal involving fraud within the Tennessee governor’s family business. Ultimately, The Sins Of Cyntoia Brown: A Johnny Allen PostScript is a passionate argument against the sometimes twisted nature of social activism by which a possibly innocent human being’s character is impugned. Unlike the victim’s accusers, Walt Trott knew Johnny Allen personally for 17 years and vouches for his good name. Whatever the truth of how events unfolded that night, and Trott acknowledges he doesn’t know, he is to be lauded for standing up for his friend when few others have . . . Craig Baguley