A youngster from Iowa who killed an alleged rapist was sentenced to compensate his family $150,000. A teenage human trafficking victim who was initially charged with first-degree murder after stabbing her accused rapist to death was sentenced to five years of closely monitored probation and ordered to pay $150,000 in reparations to the man’s family in an Iowa court on Tuesday.
Pieper Lewis, 17, was sentenced on Tuesday after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in the death of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines in June 2020. Both counts carried a maximum sentence of ten years in jail.
Polk County District Judge David M. Porter deferred those jail terms on Tuesday, which means that if Lewis breaches any part of her probation, she might be sent to prison for the entire 20-year term.
In terms of being forced to pay the estate of her rapist, Porter stated that “this court is faced with no other option,” noting that restitution is required under Iowa law and has been supported by the Iowa Supreme Court.
Lewis was 15 years old when she stabbed Brooks 30 times in a Des Moines residence. According to authorities, Lewis was a runaway who was attempting to flee an abusive relationship with her adopted mother and was sleeping in the halls of a Des Moines apartment building when a 28-year-old man took her in and forced trafficked her to other men for sex.
Lewis claimed that one of those guys was Brooks and that he had raped her several times in the weeks leading up to his death. She described being forced at knifepoint to accompany Brooks to his apartment for intercourse by the 28-year-old male. She told authorities that after Brooks raped her again, she snatched a knife from a bedside table and stabbed him in a fit of wrath.
Lewis was sexually molested and trafficked, according to police and prosecutors. However, prosecutors contend that Brooks was sleeping at the time he was stabbed and was not a direct threat to Lewis.
Iowa is not one of the dozens of states that have enacted a so-called safe harbor statute, which provides victims of human trafficking with some measure of protection.
‘I am a survivor,’ she says.
Lewis, who obtained her GED while incarcerated, admitted in a statement before her sentencing that she struggled with the structure of her confinement, including “why I was treated like delicate glass” or wasn’t permitted to connect with her friends or family.
“My spirit has been scorched, yet it still shines through the flames,” she read from a prepared statement. “Hear me roar, see me sparkle, and keep an eye on me as I grow.”
“I am a survivor,” she continued.
The Associated Press does not usually name sexual assault victims, but Lewis previously agreed to have her name used in reporting about her case.
Prosecutors objected to Lewis referring to herself as a victim in the case, claiming she failed to accept responsibility for stabbing Brooks and “leaving his children without a father.”
The court repeatedly asked Lewis to explain the poor choices she made that led to Brooks’ stabbing and expressed concern that she did not always obey the conditions imposed on her in juvenile detention.
“I’m sure the next five years of your life will be full of regulations you disagree with,” Porter added. “This is the second chance you’ve requested,” he added later. You are not entitled to a third.”
According to Karl Schilling of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, a bill to establish a safe harbor statute for victims of human trafficking passed the Iowa House earlier this year but stopped in the Senate due to concerns from law enforcement groups that it was too broad.
“A working committee was formed to iron out the concerns,” Shilling explained. “Hopefully, it will be revived next year.”
Iowa does have an affirmative defense rule that allows victims of crime some tolerance if they committed the act “under compulsion by another’s fear of significant injury, provided that the defendant rationally believed that such injury was impending.”
Prosecutors claimed Tuesday that when Lewis pled guilty to manslaughter and willful injury, she forfeited that affirmative defense.