Teen sex-trafficking victim forced to pay $150,000 to attacker’s family after she killed her rapist

Just one day after an Iowa judge told 17-year-old sex trafficking victim Pieper Lewis that she must pay her rapist’s family $150,000 for killing him, more than $200,000 in donations have flooded a GoFundMe campaign set up by her former high school math teacher to help her pay the harsh restitution.

Noting that the law compelled him to order the payment, the judge also sentenced Lewis, who pled guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury, to a deferred 20-year prison sentence that will be dropped if the teen successfully completes five years of closely supervised probation.

In what she has characterized as a fit of rage, Lewis stabbed Zachary Brooks, a 37-year-old married father of two, more than 30 times when she was just 15 years old. According to Lewis, she had, on multiple occasions, been trafficked to Brooks against her will for the purpose of having sex.

Neither police nor prosecutors disputed that claim, according to the Associated Press, which took a look at what is next for the young survivor.

Des Moines Lincoln High School math teacher Leland Schipper noted on the GoFundMe page he created that Lewis has a tough road ahead of her.

“Pieper has five years of probation ahead of her; five years that she will be required to be nearly perfect to avoid facing 20 years in prison,” he said. “Pieper’s path to true freedom will not be easy, and she is still a teenager that has experienced a lot of trauma.”

The money raised represents, for the most part, donations of less than $50 each from countless supporters, the AP notes.

“Pieper, from one survivor to another, life gets better,” one $20 donor wrote. “I am disgusted you spent a second in jail, but don’t look back. Use whatever funds are left to move on and move up.”

And any funds exceeding the amount she was ordered to pay will help Lewis to do just that.

“All additional money raised will help Lewis pay for college or start her own business, and help other young victims of sex crimes,” the AP reports.

“Today, my former student, Pieper Lewis bravely took the microphone during her sentencing hearing and told the courtroom that her voice mattered,” Schipper wrote on the GoFundMe page. “I was incredibly proud of her. She was powerful, and she brought me to tears.”

While Iowa law requires anyone convicted of a felony that results in the death of another person to pay the victim’s estate “at least” the amount Lewis was ordered to pay, criminal defense attorney Grant Gangestad of the Iowa Association for Justice claims there is nothing in the law stopping Lewis from accepting donations to come up with the restitution. Lawyers for Lewis called the order cruel and unusual given that she was a victim of sex trafficking and, therefore, Brooks was at least in part responsible for his own demise.

As the Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the restitution law in similar cases, the judge rejected the attorneys’ argument, and it is unclear as of Wednesday whether or not they will appeal the decision.

Brooks was reportedly asleep when Lewis stabbed him to death, and the man who allegedly trafficked her to Brooks has not been charged.

“No charges have been filed,” said Polk County Attorney John Sarcone. “The matter is under investigation, and our office will not comment further.”


As for Lewis, she will be spending her five years of supervised probation at the Fresh Start Women’s Center in Des Moines, “a low-level prison facility that allows convicts some level of freedom to work and make some trips outside the facility,” the AP reports.

She will be required to wear a GPS-enabled ankle bracelet and complete 600 hours of community service, during which she will be speaking to young people about making responsible choices in life.

“You have a story to tell,” said Polk County District judge David M. Porter. “You should be willing to tell it to other young women.”

At Tuesday’s sentencing, Lewis was pragmatic.

“I know that I am being watched by a million eyes. The reality is, I will make mistakes, even with the court’s pressure,” she said.

But the young teen resolved to succeed.

“I refuse to fail,” she vowed. “I refuse to let the system fail me.”

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Melissa Fine

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