A teenage human trafficking victim who stabbed her accused rapist to death was ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to the man’s family after being initially charged with first-degree murder and closely supervised probation.
In the June 2020 killing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines, Pieper Lewis, 17, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury, both charges punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
On Tuesday, Polk County District Judge David M. Porter deferred Lewis’ prison sentences, meaning she could be sent to prison if she violates any portion of her probation.
Porter stated that the court has no choice but to order restitution to her rapist’s estate, since it is a mandatory requirement under Iowa law, that she pay restitution for the involuntary manslaughter conviction.
According to Lewis, one of those men was Brooks, who raped her many times in the weeks before he died. The 28-year-old man forced her to go to Brooks’ apartment with him for sex at knifepoint, according to her. During a fit of rage, she grabbed a knife from a bedside table and stabbed Brooks after he raped her again.
In spite of the fact that police and prosecutors have agreed that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked, prosecutors have argued that Brooks was asleep when he was stabbed, so he was not a direct threat to Lewis.
The state of Iowa does not have a safe harbor law, which gives victims of trafficking at least some level of immunity from criminal prosecution.
Prior to her sentencing, Lewis, who earned her GED while in juvenile detention, said she struggled with the structure of her detention, including why she was treated like “fragile glass” or couldn’t communicate with her family and friends.
“My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames,” she read from a statement she had prepared. “Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow.”
“I am a survivor,” she added.
Lewis called herself a victim in the case, but prosecutors said she had failed to accept responsibility for stabbing Brooks and leaving his kids fatherless.
Lewis was repeatedly asked by the judge to explain what poor choices she had made that led to Brooks’ stabbing and how she sometimes did not follow rules set for her in juvenile detention.
I am certain that the next five years of your life will be ruled by rules you disagree with. He later added, “This is the second chance you’ve asked for. You don’t get a third.”
According to Karl Schilling from the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, a bill to establish a safe harbor law for victims of human trafficking passed the Iowa House this year, but failed in the Senate due to concerns from law enforcement groups.
In order to resolve the issues, a working group was established, Shilling said. “Hopefully next year it will be revisited.”
There is a law in Iowa that allows victims of crime to assert an affirmative defense if the victim was induced into breaking the law by another’s threat of serious injury, provided the defendant reasonably believed that such injury was imminent.
In her plea deal, Lewis waived this affirmative defense, prosecutors argued Tuesday.
For more on this story please consider these sources:
- GoFundMe for Pieper Lewis set up to support Des Moines teen Des Moines Register
- Judge orders Iowa teen trafficking victim to pay $150K in restitution to family of rapist she killed Fox News
- Iowa teen who killed rapist sentenced, ordered to pay $150K The Associated Press
- Pieper Lewis fundraiser raises full restitution amount less than 24 hours after sentencing KCCI Des Moines
- Iowa teen who killed alleged rapist ordered to pay $150K to his family NBC News