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Pieper Lewis sentenced to probation in killing of alleged rapist

Pieper Lewis was sleeping within the hallway of an condominium complicated when she first encountered the person she would come to think about as her boyfriend. She was 15 years previous, on the run from an unstable residence life in Des Moines.

He gave her a spot to remain and referred to as her his girlfriend. However then, by her account of her, he began itemizing her on courting web sites. Males had paid to have intercourse along with her seven or eight occasions when, she mentioned in a responsible plea, she killed considered one of them.

{The teenager} mentioned she had been compelled on the evening of Could 31, 2020, to go to 38-year-old Zachary Brooks’s condominium, the place he allegedly plied her with alcohol and medicines and sexually assaulted her repeatedly. Seeing him sleeping afterward, one thing snapped in her.

“I out of the blue realized that Mr. Brooks had raped me but once more,” Lewis wrote in pleading responsible to voluntary manslaughter and willful damage, “and was overcome with rage.”

She stabbed him dozens of occasions and was arrested on homicide prices a day later. Prosecutors didn’t dispute her trafficking allegations, and a Polk County decide mentioned in court docket paperwork there was proof that appeared to assist them. Nonetheless, in a case with parallels to different sex-trafficked youngsters who killed their assailants, she confronted as much as 20 years in jail.

On Tuesday, Polk County District Choose David M. Porter sentenced Lewis, now 17, to 5 years of probation to be served at a residential correctional facility, in what he referred to as “a second likelihood.” I’ve deferred Lewis’s judgment of her, permitting her document of her to be expunged if she completes probation. In a requirement that Lewis’s attorneys argued towards her, he mentioned he lacked the discretion to keep away from requiring her to pay $150,000 in restitution to Brooks’s household.

Earlier than the decide handed down his ruling, Lewis took the stand. She learn from a robust assertion, opening with, “Right this moment, my voice might be heard.” Over a number of minutes, she described the trauma she had endured, alongside along with her makes an attempt to take possession of her actions from her and transfer ahead.

“I want the occasions that came about on June 1, 2020, by no means occurred,” she mentioned. “However to say there’s just one sufferer to this story is absurd.”

The person she named as her trafficker has not been charged. A Des Moines Police Division spokesman didn’t reply to The Washington Publish’s questions on whether or not investigators had appeared into Lewis’s claims of her.

Throughout the nation, different youngsters who had been allegedly intercourse trafficked and concerned in a killing have spent years in jail, their abuse in lots of circumstances both unmentioned or dismissed in court docket. In Ohio, Alexis Martin pleaded responsible to homicide and was sentenced to life in jail after prosecutors mentioned she participated in a plan to rob her alleged trafficker, who was shot to demise in the course of the crime. In Wisconsin, Chrystul Kizer confronted a life sentence for killing her abuser.

The state of Ohio vs. a sex-trafficked teenager

Cyntoia Brown spent 15 years in jail for killing a person who paid for intercourse along with her whereas she was trafficked at age 16. Then, in 2019, after advocates rallied to her aspect within the wake of the #MeToo motion, her sentence was commuted and she or he was launched. Her story from Ella helped draw consideration to youngsters with comparable tales, main some authorities to rethink how they need to be handled.

Lewis’s case has additionally sparked consideration, outrage and requires her launch. She has been held in juvenile detention since her arrest of her in June 2020.

“Nobody has ever denied that she was a sufferer, and but the way in which that she’s being handled will not be the way in which that we might count on a sufferer of trafficking, not to mention a minor sufferer of trafficking, to be handled,” mentioned KellyMarie Meek, coordinator of prevention and public well being initiatives on the Iowa Coalition Towards Sexual Assault.

Within the years earlier than she met Brooks, Lewis’s childhood was incessantly marked by trauma, based on court docket data.

Days after being born, her attorneys wrote in court docket paperwork, she returned to a hospital severely malnourished. She was positioned in foster care, her dad and mom’ rights had been terminated after which she was adopted by Billy and Leslie Lewis. When the couple divorced in 2019, Pieper Lewis, then in center faculty, started appearing out. Her mom de ella reacted with what Lewis’s attorneys referred to as “draconian parenting measures,” eradicating her bed room door and forcing her to sleep on a mattress on the ground.

Guidelines posted on her bed room wall mentioned she couldn’t have contact along with her siblings and should keep in her room till instructed to return out.

In her responsible plea, Lewis laid out the collection of occasions that led to the killing. She mentioned she ran away thrice within the early months of 2020 — and for good in March 2020. With nowhere to remain, she bounced from the condominium of 1 grownup to the following, at occasions going through abuse.

She spent the primary few months on the condominium of a classmate’s older sister, babysitting in change for shelter, till a disagreement that ended with Lewis sleeping within the condominium complicated hallways. A 40-year-old man took the teenage woman in, however when he turned violent, she was again to the hallway.

In April 2020, one other resident of the complicated, a 28-year-old man, moved Lewis into his unit within the constructing. He started arranging for her to have intercourse with males, she wrote in her plea de ella. Amongst them was Brooks, with whom she was compelled to spend three days in Could 2020. She mentioned he assaulted her a number of occasions.

“I didn’t need to have intercourse with Mr. Brooks as a result of I believed that [the 28-year-old man] was my boyfriend,” she wrote. “I didn’t need to go to Mr. Brooks’ condominium however I had no different place to go.”

On Could 31, Lewis’s alleged trafficker instructed her she wanted to “flip that trick” with Brooks once more to get marijuana. She cried and mentioned she did n’t need to go, based on her plea de ella, however he held a knife towards her neck. Frightened, she acquired into Brooks’s automotive and went with him to his condominium.

He gave her alcohol and instructed her to undress. She wrote that she hoped he would go to sleep: “I attempted to stay calm and stored pondering he’ll cross out and I’ll go away his condominium de el at first mild.” He assaulted her 5 occasions earlier than falling asleep, based on what she mentioned in her plea de ella.

Lewis was in search of her clothes when she observed a knife on a nightstand and rage took over. She stabbed Brooks 37 occasions after which fled within the early-morning darkness.

“My intentions that day weren’t simply to exit and take any individual’s life,” Lewis mentioned in court docket Tuesday. “In my thoughts, I felt that I wasn’t secure. And I felt that I used to be in peril, which resulted within the actions. Nevertheless it does not take away from the truth that a criminal offense was dedicated.”

Prosecutors had beforehand indicated that they could request jail time, however in court docket on Tuesday, they referred to as as an alternative for probation and placement in a girls’s facility.

They mentioned the case required balancing rehabilitation towards safety of the neighborhood. Whereas noting that that they had not disputed Lewis’s claims of being trafficked, they mentioned that in killing him, she had taken issues into her personal fingers, leaving Brooks’s kids with no father.

Chrystul Kizer, the Wisconsin Supreme Court docket and a watershed sex-trafficking case

Matthew Sheeley, considered one of Lewis’s legal professionals, argued that her actions had been straight tied to her standing as a sufferer of human trafficking. He argued towards the requirement that she pay Brooks’s property, telling the decide, “I do not imagine that the Iowa Legislature supposed to require a 15-year-old woman … to pay her rapist’s property $150,000.”

Positioned in a secure surroundings with assist, Sheeley mentioned, Lewis wouldn’t pose a threat to the neighborhood. He identified that she had just lately graduated from highschool whereas in detention — a yr forward of her class.

He mentioned the Pieper Lewis who was prosecuted for first-degree homicide “will not be the Pieper Lewis that we all know.”

In her assertion in court docket, Lewis mentioned she would prevail it doesn’t matter what the decide determined. She rattled off objectives for herself, like turning into a clothier, searching for different ladies like her and telling her story about her. She referred to as herself “a phoenix.”

“Some days I really feel like giving up,” she mentioned, “however but once more, I’m the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel. I flicker brighter than the straightforward considered my very own future. I have to prevail.”

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