DES MOINES, Iowa –
Donations are being poured in to help a 17-year-old sex trafficking victim who was ordered by a court to pay $150,000 to the family of a man she stabbed to death after he raped him. Teacher.
A GoFundMe campaign set up for Pieper Lewis raised more than $200,000 just a day after a compensation order was issued by an Iowa judge.
Lewis also received a 20-year deferred sentence on Tuesday and will have her sentence expunged if she successfully completes five years of closely supervised probation. Prosecutors described the sentence as merciful for a teenager who had been horribly abused – and the judge said the law forced him to order a payment of $150,000 – but it led many observers to judge as unnecessarily harsh.
Last year, Lewis pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and willful bodily harm in the murder of Zachary Brooks, 37, a father of two who was married in June 2020. Lewis was 15 years old when she stabbed Brooks more than 30 times in her Des Moines apartment.
Lewis has asserted that she was illegally trafficked with Brooks to have sex several times and stabbed him in a fit of rage. Police and prosecutors have not argued that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked.
The Associated Press usually doesn’t name sexual assault victims, but Lewis has agreed to use her name in the past in stories about her case.
Here’s how Lewis is facing criminal charges in Iowa court and what’s next for her:
WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND OF GOFUNDME CAMPAIGN FOR LEWIS?
The account was set up by one of her former high school teachers late last year. Initially, the goal was set at $150,000 to cover the compensation payment. All of the extra money will help Lewis pay for college or start his own business, and help other young victims of sex crime.
“Pieper had five years of probation before her; the five years that she would be required to be almost perfect to avoid facing 20 years in prison,” said Leland Schipper, a math teacher at Des Moines Lincoln High School, said on the GoFundMe page. “Pieper’s path to true freedom won’t be easy, and she’s still a teenager who’s been through a lot of trauma.”
Most donations are worth less than $50. Almost every sponsor has offered words of encouragement or outrage at the youth’s prosecution – and sometimes both.
“Pieper, from one survivor to another, life gets better,” wrote one $20 donor. “I’m disgusted that you spent a second in jail, but don’t look back. Use whatever money you have left to move on and move on.”
WHY WHY ORDERED LEWIS TO PAY $150,000 FOR HIS REAL ESTATE?
Iowa law requires that anyone convicted of a felony resulting in the death of another person must pay “at least” this amount to the victim’s estate.
The payment cannot be made through bankruptcy, and it does not prevent the victim’s family from suing for additional damages. Grant Gangestad, a criminal defense attorney who helps lead the Iowa Justice Association, a trade group for trial lawyers, said: “However, there is nothing in the law that seems to prohibit one. someone uses donations to pay compensation.
Lewis’ lawyers argued that as a victim of human trafficking and sexual abuse, she should be exempt from any payments. They argued that Brooks was partially responsible for what happened and that such compensation would be cruel and unusual under the circumstances.
The judge dismissed those arguments at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, noting that the Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the state’s compensation law even in the face of some of the same arguments.
It is unclear whether Lewis’ attorneys will appeal; they said on Wednesday they were still weighing their options.
WHY DO DOCTORS PAY LEWIS FOR KILLING A MAN TO AGAINST HIM?
Dozens of states have so-called safe harbor laws that grant victims of human trafficking at least some degree of criminal immunity. Iowa is not one of them.
However, Iowans can avoid being convicted of a violent crime, if they can prove that they have faced “imminent” serious injury.
While no one has denied that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked, prosecutors successfully argued that Brooks was not an immediate danger to Lewis because he was asleep at the time of the stabbing.
Prosecutors say their goal in charging Lewis is twofold: To ensure the public’s protection from a potentially fatal stabbinger and to ensure that Lewis receives the rehabilitation help she receives. he needs.
DO LEWIS MAN HAVE TRAFFIC CHARGES?
Lewis said she lived with a man for more than two months in 2020 after she ran away from an abusive home. The then-28-year-old told her she was his girlfriend, but told others she was his niece, Lewis said.
The man told her she couldn’t live with him for free, she said, and created her dating profiles on websites and arranged for her to have sex with men. another man because of money, this happened seven or eight times when she lived with him. .
She said it was this man who brought her to Brooks in early May 2020 to have sex. When she resisted going back to Brooks’ apartment another time, Lewis said the man held a knife to her neck and cut her with it.
Lewis named the man in court documents, but the Associated Press did not release his name because he was not charged.
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone on Wednesday gave some details on why.
Sarcone said: “No charges have been filed. “The matter is under investigation, and our office will not comment further.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR LEWIS?
Lewis’ five years of supervised probation will be spent at the state’s Fresh Start Women’s Center in Des Moines, a low-level prison facility that allows convicts to work freely and make some trips. go outside the facility. Lewis’ whereabouts will be tracked via a GPS-enabled ankle bracelet.
She was also ordered to perform 600 hours of community service, accomplished by talking to other young people about the dangers they face and the importance of making responsible choices.
“You have a story to tell,” Polk County Judge David M. Porter said at sentencing. “You should be willing to tell that to other young women.”
Lewis, who received her GED diploma while in juvenile detention, said she wants to go to college and dreams of becoming a fashion designer.
At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, she expressed both hope and fear for her future.
“I know that I am being watched by millions of eyes. In fact, I will make mistakes, even under pressure from the court,” she said, reading from a prepared statement.
“I refuse to fail,” she said. “I refuse to let the system corrupt me.”
Beck reports from Omaha, Nebraska.