A 17-year-old trafficking victim, Pieper Lewis, who stabbed her rapist to death, was sentenced by a judge on Tuesday to five years of closely supervised probation.
The teenager, who was convicted on Tuesday, September 13, was also ordered by the court to pay $150,000 in restitution to her abuser’s family.
Lewis stabbed her abuser, 37-year-old Zachary Brooks, more than 30 times in June 2020. She was initially charged with first-degree murder, but last year, Lewis pleaded to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury, both of which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The Polk County District Judge, David Porter, deferred those prison sentences on Tuesday, September 13; this means Lewis could serve 20 years if she violates her probation.
Porter said he ordered Lewis to pay restitution to Brooks’ family because the court was “presented with no other option.” He explained that the restitution is mandatory under Iowa law.
Lewis was 15 when she stabbed 37-year-old Zachary Brooks in a Des Moines apartment.
She ran away from home to escape her abusive adoptive mother. She was sleeping in the halls of an apartment building when Christopher Brown, 28, took her in and began trafficking her to other men for sex, according to prosecutors.
Brooks, who Lewis claims repeatedly raped her before she murdered him, was one of the guys she was being trafficked to. She recalled being forced at knifepoint to go to his apartment for sex. After Brooks raped her for what would end up being the last time, Lewis grabbed a knife off a bedside table and stabbed him.
Lewis’s account of being trafficked and abused is undisputed by both the police and the prosecution, but the prosecution contends that Brooks posed no imminent threat since he was asleep when he was stabbed.
Lewis will be transported to a halfway house in Des Moines and will wear a GPS tracking device to ensure she does not fall “back into the lifestyle that you thus far left,” Judge Porter said. She will also have to complete 200 hours of community service.
“My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames,” she read from a prepared statement prior to her sentencing. “Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow. I am a survivor,” Lewis said.
Prosecutors, however, says Lewis shouldn’t have labeled herself a survivor, claiming she failed to take responsibility for Brooks’ death and left his children without a father.
“I took a person’s life. My intentions that day were not to just go out and take somebody’s life. In my mind, I felt that I wasn’t safe, and I felt that I was in danger, which resulted in the acts. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that a crime was committed. but to say there is one victim is absurd.” She continued.