Pieper Lewis avoids prison after violating probation

In court today, Lewis said she was ready to move on, claiming her escape last fall was a response to trauma she experienced before her first arrest.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 4:41 PM CDT
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POLK COUNTY, Iowa (KCCI) - A Polk County District judge has once again spared Pieper Lewis from prison.

Lewis, 18, a sex trafficking victim from Des Moines who was 15 when she killed her alleged rapist, faced up to 21 years in prison for violating the probation she was on after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in that case.

Instead, District Judge David M. Porter on Wednesday ordered her back on probation.

Porter previously sentenced Lewis to probation in September 2022 for killing 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines. He called that her “second chance” and told her she wouldn’t get another. On Wednesday, Porter said that in sending her back on probation, he is continuing that second chance.

He said that if she violated her probation again, she would face harsher penalties.

Lewis’ story has gained national attention in recent years, with some arguing that she shouldn’t have been convicted of killing the man she said raped her repeatedly and she shouldn’t owe the $150,000 in restitution to the family of Zachary Brooks she was ordered to pay.

A GoFundMe for Lewis, started by one of her former teachers, raised more than $550,000 before it was closed.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Lewis’ probation officer recommended Lewis go to prison, while Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham recommended Lewis continue probation.

Lewis told the judge that Fresh Start wasn’t “a safe place” for her to say.

Porter deferred a 20-year prison term in her initial sentencing, opting to order her to serve her five years of probation at Fresh Start Women’s Center in Des Moines.

On Wednesday, months after Lewis violated those terms by escaping from the facility, Porter revoked that deferment and then suspended the sentence, placing her back on probation.