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14th Sep 2022

Teen who killed her rapist must pay $150,000 to his family

Steve Hopkins

Pieper Lewis was trafficked for sex, some times at knifepoint

A teenage human trafficking victim who was initially charged with first-degree murder after she stabbed her accused rapist to death has been ordered to pay $150,000 (£130,000) restitution to the man’s family.

Pieper Lewis, 17, was also sentenced in an Iowa court to five years of closely supervised probation on Tuesday after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in the June 2020 killing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines, Iowa, the Associated Press reported.

Both charges were punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Polk County District judge David M. Porter deferred those sentences, meaning that if Lewis violates any portion of her probation, she could be made to serve 20-years in jail, AP reported.

Porter said the court was “presented with no other option” but to make Lewis pay Brooks’ family restitution, as it is mandatory under Iowa law.

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

The court was told Lewis was sleeping in the hallways of a Des Moines apartment building – having run away to escape an abusive life with her adopted mother – when she was taken in by a 28-year-old man. He then forcibly trafficked her to other men for sex, some times at knifepoint, including Brooks.

Lewis, who has agreed to have her name used in previous stories about her case, said Brooks raped her multiple times and that she stabbed him after one sexual assault using a knife she found on a bedside table.

Prosecutors did not dispute that Lewis was raped, but argued Brooks was alseep when he was killed. They also took issue with Lewis calling herself a victim, as she had failed to take responsibility for stabbing Brooks and “leaving his kids without a father”, AP reported.

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

A GoFundMe page was set up to help Lewis pay the fine, and as of Wednesday evening it had been surpassed by more than $50,000, reaching $205,796.

Leland Schipper, a friend of Lewis, and the organising of the fundraiser, expressed his disbelief that she would have to pay damages to “the family of a man who purchased Pieper’s fifteen-year-old body from a sex trafficker, gave her drugs and alcohol, and then raped her repeatedly”.

He wrote on the GoFundMe page: “Pieper does not owe that man’s family justice. Pieper does not deserve to be finically burdened for the rest of her life because the state of Iowa wrote a law that fails to give judges any discretion as to how it is applied.

“This law doesn’t make sense in many cases, but in this case, it’s morally unjustifiable. A child who was raped, under no circumstances, should owe the rapist’s family money.”

Schipper went on to say that Lewis’ path to “true freedom will not be easy” and explained how she wants to go to college, create art, and “advocate for other girls who find themselves in situations like she endured.”

“She does not deserve a massive debt looming over her, holding her back from pursuing her ambitions,” he wrote.

“Our system if (sic) broken. It will take decades of advocacy and electing people committed to rethinking and reimagining our criminal justice system, especially our juvenile one, to fix the system.”

After the initial goal of $150,000 was met, Schipper increased it, and said he will continue accepting donations beyond the $200,00 mark, explaining to donors how it would be used.

Firstly, the restitution would be paid, he wrote, along with an additional $4,000 in restitution to the state.

The remaining monies, Schipper wrote, would be used to “remove financial barriers for Pieper in pursuing college/university or starting her own business” and give Lewis “the financial capacity to explore ways to help other young victims of sex crimes.”

Donations to help Lewis get on with her life can be made here.

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