Teen Who Killed Alleged Trafficker Is Resentenced

Pieper Lewis, who could have faced 20 years, again receives probation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 1, 2023 6:20 PM CDT
Teen Who Killed Alleged Trafficker Is Resentenced
Pieper Lewis appears in Polk County court, Wednesday, May 31, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.   (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)

A teenage sex trafficking victim who fatally stabbed the man she accused of abusing her was resentenced Wednesday to probation, telling an Iowa judge that she now has a support system to help keep her on track. Prosecutors agreed that Pieper Lewis should continue her probation rather than be incarcerated. Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham told the judge that her office "sees her as a human being," that she is vulnerable to revictimization, and that there is low risk she will commit more violence, the AP reports. Lewis, now 18, had faced a 20-year prison sentence for the June 2020 fatal stabbing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks, whom Lewis said she was trafficked to against her will, and then was forced to have sex with him multiple times at age 15.

She pleaded guilty in September to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury and was sentenced to probation. Polk County Judge David Porter ruled then that Lewis' charges would have been expunged from her record had she kept to the terms of her probation. That decision was revoked Wednesday. "I indicated to you last year you’ve asked for a second chance, you don’t get a third. I stand by that,” Porter said to Lewis. "There are consequences for your actions. You have now been convicted of two felony offenses."

Lewis acknowledged in court that she violated the terms of her agreement when she cut her GPS monitor and walked out of the Fresh Start Women’s Center without permission in November. She was arrested days later and has been held at the Polk County jail since then. Lewis wrote a letter to Porter, dated April 5, that described a "success plan" for probation, according to court documents. "The team I have now is my biggest support, and I need to stop fighting them," Lewis said in a statement to the judge Wednesday. "I refuse to fail and I refuse to let the system fail me."

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At Wednesday’s hearing, defense witnesses described the importance of trauma-informed care for child sex trafficking victims and the research showing a high propensity to run away among this population. Matthew Sheeley, one of Lewis' attorneys, said he was disappointed that she was formally convicted on Wednesday but ultimately relieved by the continuation of her probation. (Last year, donations poured in after Lewis was ordered to pay $150,000 to Brooks' family.)

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