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GoFundMe Raises More Than $450K For Iowa Teen Ordered To Pay Her Alleged Rapist's Family Restitution
Pieper Lewis received five years probation for killing Zachary Brooks after he allegedly raped her. Iowa law also mandates a restitution payment to Brooks' family.
Just days after a judge ordered an Iowa teen sex trafficking victim to pay her alleged rapist’s family $150,000 in restitution, a GoFundMe account set up by one of her former teachers to help the teen has skyrocketed past that amount.
As of Friday morning, the GoFundMe account had raised more than $450,000 to benefit 17-year-old Pieper Lewis, who was sentenced earlier this week to five years of probation for killing 37-year-old Zachary Brooks in 2020 after he allegedly raped her.
Lewis had been facing up to 20 years behind bars after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury. Rather than send the teen to prison, Polk County District Judge David M. Porter handed down a deferred sentence, which will allow her to avoid prison and have the conviction expunged from her record as long as she follows the terms of her probation, according to the Associated Press.
Porter also ordered her to pay $150,000 in restitution to Brooks’ family after remarking that he had “no other option,” according to the news outlet. State law in Iowa mandates that anyone convicted of a felony that results in the death of another person must pay at least $150,000 to the victim’s family as restitution regardless of the circumstances.
Lewis’ story struck a chord with her former high school teacher Leland Schipper who set up the GoFundMe account to help her pay the restitution fee.
“Pieper does not owe that man’s family justice,” Schipper wrote on the fundraising page. “Pieper does not deserve to be finically (sic) burdened for the rest of her life because the state of Iowa wrote a law that fails to give judges any discretion as to how it is applied. This law doesn’t make sense in many cases, but in this case, it’s morally unjustifiable. A child who was raped, under no circumstances, should owe the rapist’s family money.”
Within days, the page had skyrocketed past its goal with more than 12,500 donations totaling over $450,000.
“You are brave. You are a hero. You are setting many good examples,” one donator, who gave $10, wrote. “As a child you stood up to your oppressor.”
Another wished Lewis “healing and comfort” on her long journey.
After exceeding the fundraising goal, Schipper announced in an update that the additional money would be used to “remove financial barriers” for Lewis to pursue college or start a business and provide her with “the financial capacity to explore ways to help other young victims of sex crimes.”
Lewis spoke of her desire to become a juvenile justice advocate during a prepared statement she read in court Tuesday.
“My story can change things. My story has changed me,” she said, according to The Des Moines Register. “The events that took place on that horrific day cannot be changed, as much as I wish I could. That day a combination of complicated actions took place resulting in the death of a person, as well as a stolen innocence of a child.”
Lewis was just 15 years old when she found herself homeless and sleeping in the hallway of a Des Moines apartment complex. A 28-year-old man offered her refuge in his apartment, but then he began to sell her for sex to other men, including Brooks, in exchange for money or drugs.
Lewis said Brooks, a married father of three, had raped her on five other occasions before he picked her up from the 28-year-old man’s apartment on May 31, 2020, according to her plea agreement obtained by the Register.
Lewis said she had tried to resist but was threatened at knifepoint by the 28-year-old man who forced her to go with Brooks to perform sex acts in exchange for $50 worth of marijuana.
Once at Brooks’ home, Lewis said she was plied with vodka and marijuana and fell asleep. When she woke up, she alleged that Brooks was raping her. After he fell asleep, she said she got up to get her clothes and noticed a knife sitting on his nightstand.
“I suddenly realized that Mr. Brooks had raped me yet again and (I) was overcome with rage,” she said.
Lewis stabbed Brooks more than 30 times before fleeing the apartment.
In court Tuesday, she expressed remorse but also referred to herself as a survivor.
“My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames,” she said. “Hear me roar, see me glow and watch me grow.”