A Sex Trafficking Victim Who Killed Her Rapist Has Been Ordered To Pay His Family $150,000

Pieper Lewis, who said she was trafficked to have sex with men, admitted to fatally stabbing a man who raped her multiple times when she was 15.

Pieper Lewis was 15 years old when she was trafficked to have sex with men by someone who took her in when she was trying to escape her abusive mom.

One night, she was forced at knifepoint to go to the apartment of 38-year-old Zachary Brooks, who she said had raped her several times before, to "turn a trick" for weed. Lewis alleged that Brooks raped her again that night, and after he fell asleep, she fatally stabbed him.

On Tuesday, Lewis, now 17, was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to Brooks's family. She had pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury last year, after initially being charged with first-degree murder.

Both charges that Lewis pleaded guilty to carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Polk County District Judge David M. Porter deferred her judgment — which allows her to avoid prison time — and her record will be expunged if she completes her supervised probation.

Lewis's attorney, Matthew Sheeley, told BuzzFeed News that they are "thrilled" with the deferred judgment but disagreed with the restitution order, which they may appeal.

"Pieper is doing great," Sheeley said. "She is, of course, very thankful for the court's decision to defer judgment. It suffices to say that Pieper deeply appreciates all of the love and support she has received in recent days."

By Lewis's account, she had run away from home in early 2020, trying to escape her mother who was emotionally and mentally abusive, according to court documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. Lewis was sleeping in a hallway of an apartment building around the time she met the man who sex trafficked her for money and weed.

Lewis said the man forced her to go to Brooks's apartment on the night of May 31, 2020, threatening her with a knife. There, Brooks made her drink alcohol and consume drugs, and she dozed off. Lewis said she awoke to Brooks raping her. When he fell asleep, she got up, put her clothes on, and stabbed him 30 times.

"I suddenly realized that Mr. Brooks had raped me yet again and was overcome with rage," she said in a statement as part of her guilty plea. "Without thinking, I immediately grabbed the knife from his night stand and began stabbing him."

Prosecutors did not dispute Lewis's allegations of being sex trafficked and assaulted, but they said that Brooks was asleep at the time of the stabbing and did not present an immediate threat to her, the Associated Press reported.

In a statement read aloud in court before her sentence was handed down, Lewis expressed remorse for her actions, but said that she too, was a victim.

"That day, a combination of complicated actions took place resulting in a death of a person and stole the innocence of a child," she said, her voice wavering.

"I feel for the victim's family. I wish what happened never did and I truly feel that way," she continued. "I repeat: I wish the events that took place on June 1, 2020, never occurred. But to say there is only one victim to this story is absurd."

Lewis, who earned her GED while in juvenile detention last year, also talked about her dreams of being a fashion and graphic designer, and a juvenile justice advocate for young people in Iowa.

"I do not fear the thought of further incarceration. I fear not being able to accomplish some of my goals," she said. "No matter what the next chapter is, I will still rise. No matter what the judge's decision is today, I will still prevail."

A GoFundMe for Lewis had raised more than $200,000 by Wednesday afternoon. Organized by her former teacher, the fundraiser will help Lewis pay the $150,000 restitution and set her up for college or starting a business. A GoFundMe spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the fundraiser is verified and the platform will "ensure all funds raised honor its intent."

Lewis is one of several teenagers, many of whom are young Black girls, convicted of killing their sex trafficker or assaulter. Iowa does not have a Safe Harbor law that provides legal protections to victims of human trafficking. The Iowa House of Representatives passed a Safe Harbor bill in the last legislative session, but it stalled in the state Senate.

In Tennessee, Cyntoia Brown was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex when she was a 16-year-old trafficking victim. Brown received support from celebrities in 2017 who campaigned for her cause. She was eventually granted clemency and released in 2019 after more than 15 years behind bars.

In 2013, Alexis Martin, an Ohio teenager, was sentenced to 21 years to life in prison for her role in the fatal shooting of her sex trafficker. Martin had her sentence commuted in 2020 after her case was spotlighted in a documentary starring Kim Kardashian.

Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom pardoned Sara Kruzan, who was convicted of killing a man who sexually abused and trafficked her in 1994, when she was a teenager.

In Wisconsin, Chrystul Kizer is facing a life sentence for killing the man she said forced her into sex trafficking. After a state Supreme Court ruling in July, Kizer will be allowed to argue in court that her actions were a "direct result" of being trafficked, a defense that could see charges against her acquitted.