A teen sex trafficking victim, Pieper Lewis, from Iowa, was initially charged with first-degree murder after stabbing her alleged rapist to death in June 2020. An Iowa court judge ordered a five-year sentence of probation with close supervision, and she has to pay an exorbitant $150,000 to the family of her rapist.
Pieper Lewis stabbed 37-year-old Zachary Brooks to death while he was sleeping beside her. The 17-year-old girl pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury. Both offenses carry recommended sentences of up to 10 years in prison.
On Tuesday, September 13, Judge David M. Porter deferred the two 10-year prison sentences. That means that if Lewis violates any part of her probation, she could be imprisoned for 20 years.
Judge Porter said the court had no other option than to order Pieper pay the restitution of $150,000. Restitution is mandatory under Iowa law, and the Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the law when challenged.
Lewis was only 15-years-old when she stabbed Brooks in a Des Moines apartment. She was a runaway from a home where she was subjected to abuse from her adoptive mother.
After running away, Pieper was sleeping in the halls of an apartment building. She was found by 28-year-old Christopher Brown, who took her in and took care of her, allegedly as her “boyfriend,” but he started forcibly trafficking her for sex in 2020.
Brooks was among the men that Lewis was forced to have relations with, and according to her, the late Brooks had raped her several times in the weeks leading up to the murder. Lewis hated being forced to go with Brooks but she says she was coerced at knifepoint. On the day of the murder, after Brooks had his way with her, she was full of rage, and she grabbed a knife from the table next to the bed and stabbed him over 30 times.
Although the police and the prosecutors acknowledged that Lewis was a victim of trafficking and sexual assault, the prosecutors argued that Brooks was not an immediate danger to Lewis because he was sleeping when she stabbed him.
Iowa is not one of 12 states that have safe harbor laws that provide criminal immunity to victims of sex trafficking and commercial sex exploitation.
The Department of Corrections will place Lewis in a halfway house in Des Moines. In addition to her sentence, Lewis must wear a GPS tracker and complete 200 hours of community service.
During the hearing, Lewis read a statement she had prepared. She called herself a survivor, which prosecutors took issue with. They claimed that she had failed to take responsibility for the death of Brooks, and left his children without a father.
Lewis admitted to having struggled with following the strict structure of the juvenile detention center that she had been in previously, adding that she was not allowed to talk to her friends or family.
The judge pointed out that Lewis had a hard time following rules while in juvenile detention, but that her life would be filled with rules that she may not always agree with for the next five years, and that he had given her a second chance at life. He warned her that she would not get a third chance.
Iowa has a law that gives victims of crime some leeway if the victim committed the crime under threat or pressure. However, according to prosecutors, Lewis gave up that defense after pleading guilty to manslaughter and willful injury.
The story of Pieper Lewis has gone viral on social media. Many people sympathized with her and appreciated that the judge showed leniency.
The $150,000 that Pieper has to pay for restitution has already been promised by donations on Go Fund Me, plus more.