An Iowa sex-trafficking victim who at age 15 killed her alleged rapist escaped custody on Friday, violating the probation she was ordered to serve at a correctional facility after pleading guilty to manslaughter, according to reports.
Pieper Lewis, who is now 18, could face up to two decades behind bars after this alleged probation violation. Authorities have issued a warrant for her arrest, the Des Moines Register newspaper reported.
Lewis pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury for fatally stabbing Zachary Brooks in a fit of rage in June 2020. Lewis said that Brooks, 37, sexually assaulted her multiple times, according to the newspaper.
Prosecutors and police have not denied that Lewis was trafficked and sexually assaulted. The prosecution contended that Brooks was sleeping when he was stabbed and that he did not present a danger to Lewis at that moment.
Unlike dozens of other US states, Iowa does not have a law providing trafficking victims even a minimal level of criminal immunity. In September, Judge David M Porter sentenced Lewis to five years’ probation, to be served at a women’s correctional facility, the Register reported.
The sentence was handed down as a deferred judgment, meaning that if Lewis violated any terms of her probation, she could face 20 years’ imprisonment on the charges, the newspaper added. After her alleged escape, probation authorities reportedly asked for the revocation of Lewis’s deferred judgment and the imposition of her “original sentence”.
Lewis’s alleged escape unfolded around 6am local time Friday. Someone opened a door at the women’s correctional facility, which triggered an alarm. An on-duty officer at the facility allegedly saw Lewis leaving, the Register said.
Probation authorities also claimed in a report that Lewis’s GPS monitor was cut off Friday. They also reported that Lewis had been cited for a variety of infractions, such as not taking a direct bus route back to the facility, and they said there were four hours where she was not accounted for during a three-week period.
Lewis’s sentence spurred controversy not just because she was a victim of human trafficking. The court also ruled that she had to pay Brooks’s family $150,000 restitution. Porter said “this court is presented with no other option” due to an Iowa state law which makes restitution in such cases mandatory.
Donors to a GoFundMe campaign contributed enough money to pay the restitution so that she would not have to. “I am overjoyed with the prospect of removing this burden from Pieper,” said the campaign’s organizer, Leland Schipper, one of Lewis’ former teachers. “A child who was raped, under no circumstances, should owe the rapist’s family money.”