pieper lewis

Pieper Lewis: A Survivor’s Struggle for Justice and Redemption

Pieper Lewis, an 18-year-old sex trafficking victim from Des Moines, Iowa, found herself entangled in a web of tragedy and injustice when she killed her alleged rapist, Zachary Brooks, at the tender age of 15. Despite her harrowing past and the trauma she endured as a victim of sex trafficking, Pieper faced a 20-year prison sentence for manslaughter and willful injury. However, her sentence was suspended, and she was placed on probation, marking her third chance at rehabilitation. In this article, we will delve into Pieper Lewis’s compelling story, exploring the circumstances that led to her actions, the legal proceedings she faced, the support she garnered from advocates and the public, and her quest for redemption and a pardon from Governor Kim Reynolds.

A Tragic Incident and Its Aftermath

In June 2020, the life of Pieper Lewis took a dark turn when she fatally stabbed Zachary Brooks, a 37-year-old man who she alleged had raped her. The incident sparked legal proceedings that could have resulted in a lengthy prison term for the young woman. Prosecutors initially charged her with first-degree murder, but as the case unfolded, it became evident that Pieper had a history of sexual abuse and trafficking at the hands of a small-time musician turned pimp. This revelation led to a reduction in charges and highlighted the unique circumstances surrounding Pieper’s case.

An Unusual Sentence

Despite facing serious charges, Pieper Lewis’s sentencing took an unexpected turn. Instead of a long prison term, she received a deferred judgment and probation for the killing. The judge, recognizing her status as a trafficking victim, warned her that this was her third chance, emphasizing that any future misstep could lead to severe consequences. Pieper’s defense attorneys and the county attorney supported her renewed probation, expressing confidence in her ability to succeed with the right support and treatment.

The Call for a Gender-Specific Approach

Advocates for Pieper Lewis rallied behind her, arguing that prison would not be a suitable place for a young woman with her history of exploitation and abuse. They emphasized the need for a gender-specific program tailored to her unique needs, aimed at addressing the trauma she endured as a sex trafficking victim. Many individuals saw Pieper as a survivor in need of healing and rehabilitation rather than a hardened criminal deserving of punitive measures.

The Quest for a Pardon

Pieper Lewis’s desire to avoid prison led her to seek a pardon from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. An online petition in support of her pardon garnered overwhelming support, amassing more than 1,100 signatures. The case gained international attention, drawing sympathy from individuals who saw Pieper as a young woman failed by the system and deserving of a second chance at life.

The Backlash and Criticism

While Pieper Lewis found immense support from many corners, some media outlets criticized the legal system for not providing adequate protection and assistance to a survivor of sex trafficking. They argued that the circumstances of her case demanded a more compassionate and understanding approach, rather than punitive measures.

A Beacon of Hope: The GoFundMe Campaign

In the face of adversity, an outpouring of support emerged for Pieper Lewis. A GoFundMe campaign was launched to aid her cause, with generous donors raising over half a million dollars. The campaign served as a symbol of hope and solidarity, demonstrating that many individuals believed in Pieper’s potential for redemption and a better future.

The Weight of Restitution

Amidst the legal battles and the quest for a pardon, Pieper Lewis was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to Zachary Brooks’ estate. This financial burden added an additional layer of complexity to her journey towards rehabilitation and renewal.


Pieper Lewis’s story captivated the world, shedding light on the complex intersection of trauma, justice, and redemption. As a sex trafficking survivor, she faced a tragic series of events that led her to take matters into her own hands. While the legal system imposed significant challenges, her advocates and supporters saw her as a beacon of hope and resilience.

As Pieper continues her probation and seeks a pardon, her journey serves as a reminder of the need for a more compassionate and gender-specific approach to survivors of sex trafficking within the justice system. It prompts us to reevaluate our methods of rehabilitation, understanding that punishment alone may not be the answer for those who have suffered immeasurable trauma.

While the outcome of Pieper Lewis’s case remains uncertain, her struggle for justice and redemption serves as a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the need for empathy and understanding in our pursuit of a just society.

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