A teenage human trafficking victim in Iowa who stabbed her accused rapist to death has avoided prison time, but was ordered to pay $150,000 to the man’s family.
Pieper Lewis, 17, pleaded guilty last year to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury over the 2020 death of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks, according to multiple outlets.
Both crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Iowa.
Polk County District Judge David M. Porter gave her five years probation and a deferred judgment on Tuesday. Lewis also must live in a residential facility and wear a tracking device.
Judge Porter said he had “no other option” when ordering her to pay the six-figure restitution, saying it was mandatory under an Iowa law that had been upheld by the state’s Supreme Court.
Lewis was a homeless 15-year-old fleeing an abusive foster parent when a Des Moines man took her in and began trafficking her to have sex with others.
She was sleeping in the hallway of an apartment complex when the man — who was not accused of any crime so has not been named — found her.
One of the men she was coerced into having sex with was Brooks.
Lewis said Brooks raped her five times while she was unconscious in the weeks before she killed him, according to Lewis’ plea agreement that was reported by the Des Moines Register.
Lewis said the man who was trafficking her forced her at knifepoint to go back to Brooks’ apartment on May 31, 2020. Brooks gave the man with whom Lewis was staying $50 worth of marijuana in exchange for her to perform sexual acts.
Brooks had raped Lewis while she unconscious, according to the plea agreement, so when Lewis woke up on June 1 she took a knife on his nightstand and stabbed him 30 times while he slept.
Lewis was initially charged with first-degree murder, but prosecutors never disputed the fact that she was sexually assaulted or was the victim of sex trafficking.
Gretchen Brown-Waech, the victim rights and human trafficking coordinator in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, told the Register that federal and state law classifies anyone under 18 who commits a commercial sex act as a trafficking victim.
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.