Experts believe Pieper should have never been charged

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 10:54 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A day after a Polk County judge deferred a judgment against a homeless Des Moines teen for killing her abuser, some experts said charges never should have been filed.

Pieper Lewis, now 17, was 15 in 2020 when she stabbed 37-year-old Zachary Brooks. She told the court Brooks had raped her on several occasions while she was living with another man who she said was also abusing her.

“We were afraid of what the outcome might be,” said KellyMarie Meek. “We never felt like she should have been charged in the first place; She never should have spent time behind bars.”

Meek works at the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, she said Pieper shouldn’t have to spend 5-years in a women’s rehab center and pay $150 thousand in restitution.

“Grateful she’s not in prison, but still very worried when I think about the amount of perfection and standards that she’s going to be held to for the next five years under very close supervision,” she said.

“This was an unusual case,” said Cedar Rapids Attorney, Sara Riley.

Riley also questioned whether the county attorney should have brought charges against the then 15-year-old who described being repeatedly raped by the man she killed, and sex trafficked by another man.

“If I was a prosecutor in the situation, I would not have brought charges, but ultimately, that’s the decision for the county attorney,” she said.

Lewis pleads guilty to manslaughter and willful injury. Riley said that was likely to prevent a jury from weighing the first-degree murder charge.

“There are people in similar situations that have killed people right after being raped and then convicted,” she said.

Lewis’ high school teacher set up an online fundraiser to help her pay the $150,000 restitution. It had raised more than double by Wednesday evening. Meeks and Riley said it was too early to discuss making changes to mandatory restitution but believe there’s work to do to protect victims of sexual violence and trafficking.

“When we have somebody who wants to exploit it’s easy to find things to harm and exploit,” said Meek.