Pieper Lewis, a teenage victim of human trafficking, was convicted and ordered to pay compensation to the family of the accused rapist after the murder in Iowa


A teenage human trafficking victim originally charged with first degree murder after she stabbed her accused rapist to death has been ordered to pay $150,000 (AU$222,000) in restitution to the man’s family.

An Iowa court also sentenced 17-year-old Pieper Lewis to five years of closely supervised probation.

NOTE: The Associated Press does not typically name victims of sexual assault, but Lewis has agreed to have her name used previously in stories about her case.

DISCLAIMER: This story contains details of crimes that may upset some readers.

Lewis pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter and intentional injury in the June 2020 murder of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks.

Both charges carried up to 10 years in prison.

Polk County District Judge David Porter deferred those prison terms, meaning if Lewis violates any part of her probation, she could still be required to serve that 20-year sentence.

As for being required to pay her rapist’s estate, “this court has no other option,” Judge Porter said.

He noted that restitution was mandatory under Iowa law and upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Lewis was 15 when she stabbed Mr Brooks more than 30 times in a Des Moines apartment.

Officials said Lewis was a runaway seeking to escape an abusive life with her adoptive mother and was sleeping in the hallways of an apartment building in Des Moines when a 28-year-old man took her in before she left. forcibly traffic with other men for sex.

Lewis said one of those men was Mr Brooks and he had raped her several times in the weeks before her death.

She said she was forced at knifepoint by the 28-year-old to accompany Mr Brooks to his flat for sex.

She told officials that after Mr. Brooks raped her again, she grabbed a knife from a bedside table and stabbed Mr. Brooks in a fit of rage.

Police and prosecutors have not disputed that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked, however, prosecutors argued that Mr. Brooks was asleep when he was stabbed and was not an immediate danger to Lewis.

Iowa is not among dozens of states that have a so-called safe harbor law that grants victims of trafficking at least some level of criminal immunity.

Lewis, who graduated from high school while in juvenile detention, admitted in a statement before her sentencing that she struggled with the structure of her detention, including “why I was treated like fragile glass” or was not allowed to communicate with friends or family.

“My spirit has been burned, but still shines through the flames,” she read in a statement she had prepared.

“Hear me roar, see me shine and watch me grow. I am a survivor.”

Prosecutors disputed that Lewis called herself a victim in the case and said she did not take responsibility for stabbing Mr Brooks and ‘leaving her children fatherless’.

The judge peppered Lewis with repeated demands to explain the poor choices she made that led to Mr Brooks’ stabbing.

He also expressed concern that she sometimes did not want to follow the rules imposed on her in juvenile detention.

“The next five years of your life will be full of rules that I’m sure you don’t agree with,” Judge Porter said.

He later added, “This is the second chance you asked for. You won’t get a third.”

Karl Schilling of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance said a bill to create a safe harbor law for victims of trafficking passed the Iowa House earlier this year. , but stalled in the Senate due to concerns from law enforcement groups that it was too broad.

“A task force has been set up to resolve the issues,” Mr Shilling said.

“I hope it will be resumed next year.”

Iowa has an affirmative defense law that gives crime victims some leeway if the victim committed the violation “under duress of another threat of serious bodily harm, provided the defendant reasonably believed that such an injury was imminent”.

Prosecutors argued that Lewis waived this affirmative defense when she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and willful injury.



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