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Iowa teen who murdered alleged rapist ordered to pay his family $150,000

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A teenage trafficking victim, who was initially charged with first-degree murder after stabbing her accused rapist to death, was sentenced Tuesday in an Iowa court to five years of closely supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to the family of the man.

Pieper Lewis, 17, was convicted Tuesday after pleading last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in the June 2020 murder of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines. Both charges carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Polk County District Judge David M. Porter on Tuesday extended those jail terms, meaning if Lewis violates any part of her probation, she could be sent to jail to serve that 20-year term.

As for the obligation to pay her rapist’s estate, “this court has no other option,” Porter said, noting that the restitution is mandatory under Iowa law upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Lewis was 15 when she stabbed Brooks more than 30 times in a Des Moines apartment. Officials have said Lewis was a runaway trying to escape a violent life with her adopted mother and was sleeping in the hallways of a Des Moines apartment building when a 28-year-old man took her in before forcibly smuggling her to other men. for sex.

Lewis said one of those men was Brooks and that he had raped her several times in the weeks before his death. She said she was forced by the 28-year-old man with a knife to go to his apartment with Brooks for sex. She told officials that after Brooks raped her again, she grabbed a knife from a nightstand and stabbed Brooks in a fit of rage.

Police and prosecutors have not disputed that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked. But prosecutors have argued that Brooks was asleep at the time he was stabbed and posed no immediate danger to Lewis.

Iowa is not among the dozen states that have a so-called safe harbor law that gives trafficking victims at least some measure of criminal immunity.

‘I am a survivor’

Lewis, who earned her GED while in juvenile detention, acknowledged in a statement prior to 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 her friends or family. .

“My spirit is burned, but still glows from the flames,” she read on a statement she prepared. “Hear me roar, watch me glow and watch me grow.”

“I am a survivor,” she added.

The Associated Press does not normally name victims of sexual assault, but Lewis agreed that her name was previously used in stories about her case.

Prosecutors disagreed with Lewis calling herself a victim in the case, saying she took no responsibility for Brooks’ stabbing and “leaving his children without a father.”

The judge peppered Lewis with repeated requests to explain the poor choices she made that led to Brooks’ stabbing and expressed concern that at times she would not follow the rules laid out for her in juvenile incarceration.

‘Second chance’

“The next five years of your life will be full of rules you don’t agree with, I’m sure,” Porter said. He later added, “This is the second chance you’ve asked for. You will not get a third.”

Karl Schilling of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance said a bill to create a safe harbor law for victims of human trafficking passed the Iowa House earlier this year but has lingered in the Senate over concerns from law enforcement groups that it is too broad. used to be.

“A task force was set up to resolve the issues,” Shilling said. “Hopefully it will be picked up again next year.”

Iowa does have an affirmative defense law that gives crime victims some leeway if the victim commits the offense “under coercion by another person’s threat of serious injury, provided the defendant reasonably believed that such injury was imminent.”

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

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