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A teen ordered to pay $150,000 to the family of her rapist is flooded with donations

Pieper Lewis, left, speaks with Polk County District Judge David M. Porter during her sentencing hearing on Sept. 13. Donations are pouring in to help Lewis, a 17-year-old sex trafficking victim who was ordered by the court to pay $150,000 to the family of a man she stabbed to death after he raped her.
Zach Boyden-Holmes
/
AP
Pieper Lewis, left, speaks with Polk County District Judge David M. Porter during her sentencing hearing on Sept. 13. Donations are pouring in to help Lewis, a 17-year-old sex trafficking victim who was ordered by the court to pay $150,000 to the family of a man she stabbed to death after he raped her.

Updated September 16, 2022 at 7:41 AM ET

A fundraiser for an Iowa teen who was a victim of human trafficking and convicted of killing her rapist, has easily surpassed the $150,000 restitution fee she was ordered to pay his family.

As of Friday morning, a GoFundMe account set up on behalf of Pieper Lewis has collected nearly $450,000 from people who say they're disgusted by the court-enforced restitution order.

Judge says he had 'no other option' but to order restitution

The 17-year-old pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury for killing Zachary Brooks in 2020. According to Lewis, Brooks, who was 37 at the time, repeatedly raped the then-15-year-old in the weeks before his death. She told the court that eventually, something in her snapped and, in a fit of rage, she stabbed Brooks at least 30 times.

During a sentencing hearing Tuesday, Polk County District judge David M. Porter deferred two 10-year prison terms, ruling that Lewis's time in juvenile detention was enough time served, and ordered her to five years probation.

Porter addressed the unfairness of forcing Lewis to provide monetary compensation to her own abuser's family, saying he had "no other option." The restitution is mandatory under Iowa law, and the state is not among those that have established so-called safe harbor laws, which provide varying levels of criminal immunity for trafficking victims.

Outrage, support and money flood Lewis' GoFundMe

The GoFundMe page was launched by Leland Schipper, a former math teacher of Lewis, who described feeling "incredibly proud of her."

"[T]he judge recognized that Pieper was a victim and a child. He, like almost everyone who knows the details of Pieper's case, empathized with a girl with no violent history before or after this incident, who saw killing a man as the only way out of a truly horrific situation," Schipper wrote in a message to would-be donors.

His words and those of Lewis, have moved tens of thousands of people who are pouring money into the account.

"My donation isn't much , but it's sent with LOVE," wrote Michelle Randall, who gave $5.

A man named John Dore, gave $20 and added, "Some laws are bad laws and hurt people who shouldn't be hurt any further. We made those laws and it's up to us to fix them. I think you've been very brave. May your life be filled with peace, with love, and---especially---with justice."

More than 26 people have donated between $1,000 to $5,000 since Lewis's sentencing hearing.

After overwhelming and rapid support, the fundraising goal has been raised

Schipper initially set the fundraising goal at $150,000, but when it became clear that they would exceed the threshold within the first 24 hours, he raised it and said he would continue accepting donations above $200,000.

In an update, Schipper wrote:

"The funds will be used in the following ways: 1) Pay off Piepers 150k restitution 2) Pay off the additional 4k in restitution to the state 3) Remove financial barriers for Pieper in pursuing college/university or starting her own business. 4) Give Pieper the financial capacity to explore ways to help other young victims of sex crimes!"

Lewis addressed the court on Tuesday, reading from a prepared letter.

"My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames," she said. "Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.