The SOURCE Law Review: Iowa Teen Sentenced To Pay Rapist’s Family $150,000

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By: Mel Sanchez

A teenage human trafficking victim initially charged with first-degree murder after stabbing her accused rapist to death was sentenced Tuesday in an Iowa court to five years of closely supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to the man’s family.

What are the details of the case?

Pieper Lewis was 15 years old when she stabbed Brooks more than 30 times in a Des Moines apartment. Officials have said Lewis was a runaway seeking to escape an abusive life with her adopted mother and was sleeping in the hallways of an apartment building in Des Moise. 37-year-old Zachary Brooks took her in but later forcibly trafficked her to other men for sex.

What were the charges?

Lewis stabbed Brooks more than 30 times while he was asleep in a Des Moines apartment after allegedly being repeatedly raped by him in the weeks leading up to the incident. She was initially charged with first-degree murder and later pleaded to involuntary manslaughter. A person is charged with First Degree Murder in Iowa if he or she kills another person under any of the following circumstances: willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation. While participating in a forcible felony. While escaping or attempting to escape from lawful custody. Prosecutors argued that because Brooks was sleeping, Lewis was not in immediate danger, thereby negating a defense to murder: self-defense. Additionally, because he was asleep, and Lewis had time to plan her actions. This “time to plan” constitutes premeditation. 

However, Lewis was not sentenced to first-degree murder, she pleaded to voluntary manslaughter. Iowa voluntary manslaughter is a killing that would qualify as a murder; however, it is reduced to voluntary manslaughter because the act took place immediately after a sudden and intense provocation of the killer. It was argued that the repetitive actions of rape that occurred weeks leading up to the killing provoked Lewis to Brooks in his sleep. 

Why does she need to pay $150,000?

A 1997 Iowa law requires people convicted of homicide to pay $150,000 in restitution. Restitution is court-ordered payment of crime-related expenses to a victim by an offender. Restitution holds offenders partially or fully accountable for the financial losses suffered by the victims of their crimes. Restitution is typically ordered in both juvenile and criminal courts to compensate victims for out-of-pocket expenses that are the direct result of a crime.

Will Pieper Lewis have to pay the restitution?

Lewis’s attorneys are in discussion as to whether or not they will appeal the order to pay $150,000. If brought to appeal, Lewis’ attorney will argue Brooks was more than 51% responsible for his death, and therefore Lewis should not have to pay his estate anything. Since news of her sentence, a Go Fund me page has been set up to help Lewis pay the restitution. Her attorney says, “Pieper is extremely grateful for all the love, compassion, and support that she has received. Anyone that has met her immediately falls in love with her, she’s a remarkable young woman who has remarkable courage. And she’s amazed at all the love she’s received – she’s just blown away. We’re all frankly blown away.”

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