On Tuesday a judge sentenced a 17-year-old victim of sex trafficking, who killed her abuser, to five years of closely supervised probation, to complete 200 hours of community service, and ordered her to pay $150,000 in restitution to the family of her abuser.
In June 2020, Pieper Lewis stabbed her abuser, 37-year-old Zachary Brooks, over 30 times. Lewis was a 15-year-old runaway at the time of the incident.
Now 17, Lewis was originally charged with first-degree murder but last year she pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury. Each charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
From the New York Post:
Polk County District Judge David M. Porter deferred Lewis’ prison sentence on Tuesday — meaning that if she violates her probation, she could be sent to prison to serve 20 years.
The judge said Lewis was ordered to pay the estate of her rapist because the court was “presented with no other option,” adding that the restitution is mandatory under Iowa state law.
She will be moved to a halfway house in Des Moines, where she will wear a GPS tracking device to ensure she does not fall “back into the lifestyle that you thus far left,” Porter said, according to the New York Times. She will additionally be required to complete 200 hours of community service.
She had run away from an abusive stepmother and was sleeping in the hallways of an apartment building when Christopher Brown, 28, took her in and began pimping her out to other men for sex, officials said. One of the men was Brooks, who raped her multiple times in the weeks before his death, Lewis said.
The teenager recalled being forced by the 28-year-old at knifepoint to go to Brooks’ apartment to have sex with him. After Brooks raped her again, she said, she grabbed a knife from a bedside table and stabbed him.
Neither police nor prosecutors have doubted that Lewis was sexually assaulted, but prosecutors claimed she stabbed Brooks while he was asleep and was not a threat to Lewis.
Lewis has spent the last two years locked up in a juvenile detention center, where she earned her GED while she was unable to communicate with her friends and family.
“My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames,” she read from a prepared statement before her sentencing “Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow.”
“I am a survivor,” she added.
Iowa is not among the dozens of states that have a “safe harbor law” that gives trafficking victims at least some level of criminal immunity.