Teenager who killed alleged rapist ordered to pay restitution to his family

A teenager in Iowa who stabbed her alleged rapist to death has been ordered to pay his family $150,000 in restitution. 

Pieper Lewis said she was raped repeatedly by Zachary Brooks, 37, when she was just 15. 

On one occasion in June 2020, she grabbed a knife from a bedside table in his flat in Des Moines and stabbed Brooks more than 30 times in a fit of rage. 

She pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and wilful injury in the case last year. Both charges are punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Lewis was sentenced in an Iowa court on Tuesday to five years of closely supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to Brooks’ family.

District Judge David Porter alluded to the controversial requirement of Lewis being forced to make payments to her alleged rapist’s family. 

But he said the court was “presented with no other option”, noting the restitution is mandatory under Iowa law.

Lewis, now 17, said in a statement: “My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames. Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow.”

Iowa officials have said Lewis was a teenage runaway who was seeking to escape an abusive life with her adopted mother and was sleeping in the hallways of a Des Moines apartment building.

A 28-year-old man took her in before forcibly trafficking her to other men for sex.

Lewis recounted being forced at knifepoint by the 28-year-old trafficker to accompany Brooks to his apartment for sex. 

She told officials that after Brooks had raped her yet again, she grabbed a knife from a bedside table and stabbed him.

The teenager accepted she had committed a crime, but defended her actions, saying she felt she “was in danger”.

“My intentions that day were not to just go out and take somebody’s life,” she said.

Police and prosecutors have not disputed that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked.

But prosecutors argued that Brooks was asleep at the time of the stabbing, and therefore not an immediate threat.

Iowa does have an affirmative defence law that gives some leeway to defendants who committed a crime “under compulsion by another’s threat of serious injury”.

But prosecutors argued at her sentencing that Lewis waived that right when she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and willful injury.

Under the terms of her probation, Judge Porter ordered Lewis to be placed in a residential facility where she must wear a tracking device.

She could be jailed for 20 years if she violates the terms of her five-year probation. 

“This is the second chance that you’ve asked for. You don’t get a third,” the judge said.

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