The System Let Pieper Lewis Down
Iowa Trafficking Victim should never have been prosecuted in the first place.
If you were a teenage girl, being repeatedly trafficked for sex, repeatedly raped by older men, what would you do?
Lewis was 15 when she stabbed Brooks more than 30 times in a Des Moines apartment. Officials have said Lewis was a 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 when a 28-year-old man took her in before forcibly trafficking her to other men for sex.
Lewis said one of those men was Brooks and that he had raped her multiple times in the weeks before his death. She recounted being forced at knifepoint by the 28-year-old man to go with 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 Brooks in a fit of rage.
What should have happened at this juncture is that Lewis should have been treated for her rape, provided with whatever psychological counseling she needed, and placed in a foster home where she could physically and mentally recover.
But that’s not what happen, because prosecutors decided to prosecute Piper Lewis for murder.
Lewis ultimately plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury. And now, she gets to pay her abuser’s family money for her suffering:
A teenage human trafficking victim who was initially charged with first-degree murder after she stabbed 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.
Pieper Lewis, 17, was sentenced Tuesday after she pleaded last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in the June 2020 killing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines. Both charges were punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Polk County District judge David M. Porter on Tuesday deferred those prison sentences, meaning that if Lewis violates any portion of her probation, she could be sent to prison to serve that 20-year term.
As for being required to pay the estate of her rapist, “this court is presented with no other option,” Porter said, noting the restitution is mandatory under Iowa law that has been upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the judge thought that her sentencing was a good time to lecture Lewis about all of her poor choices that led to her paying restitution and receiving five years of probation:
The judge peppered Lewis with repeated requests to explain what poor choices she made that led up to Brooks’ stabbing and expressed concern that she sometimes did not want to follow rules set for her in juvenile lockup. “The next five years of your life will be full of rules you disagree with, I’m sure of it,” Porter said. He later added, “This is the second chance that you’ve asked for. You don’t get a third.”
In addition to her $150,000 in restitution owed the family, Lewis is subject to the following:
Lewis must also serve 1,200 hours of community service, which will cover more than $4,000 in fines. In addition, she must stay at the Fresh Start Women's Center, a residential facility, while she is on probation, will be subject to GPS tracking and must provide $150,000 in compensation for the death to Brooks' estate. If Lewis violates her probation, she could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Now let’s talk about a few things here.
I am admittedly tough on crime. I want people convicted of crimes to serve their full sentences, without probation, and without parole. Truth in sentencing.
Why was Piper Charged charged with murder? Why was Pieper Lewis charged with a crime at all? Why did the prosecutor, Democrat John Sarcone, not realize that this was an issue of self-defense? Why did the prosecutor not take into account the fact that Lewis was being trafficked and herself a victim? Why did Lewis’s legal counsel allow her to enter a guilty plea to a crime that no jury should have convicted her of?
And why did the judge think that it was appropriate to lecture a 17-year old about the “poor choices” she has made in her life when she seems to be a lifelong victim of abuse of various forms? Especially considering the Judge himself has an alleged history of prosecuting crimes against women?
After returning to Iowa in 2006, he served as the Violence Against Women (VAWA) Prosecutor for Wapello County. In February 2007, Judge Porter joined the Polk County Attorney's Office, wherein he prosecuted OWI related offenses, vehicular homicides, sexually-based offenses, and crimes against children. Currently, Judge Porter is a member of the Board of Counselors for the Drake University law School. He is serves on the Iowa Domestic Abuse Death Response Team. Judge Porter is also a member of the C. Edwin Moore Inn of Court, as well as a member of the Polk County and Iowa State Bar Associations.
Is there more to this story? Maybe. But the facts we know make it clear that the system let Pieper Lewis down. At a minimum, she never should have been prosecuted for this crime. And Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds should pardon her for it.