Pieper Lewis was 15 years old when she stabbed and killed 37-year-old Zachary Brooks after, she says, he repeatedly raped her.
She pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury. She faced up to 20 years in prison, but a judge on Tuesday handed her a deferred sentence that allows her to serve five years of probation, perform community service and get counseling. If she meets the terms of her probation, she won’t serve another day behind bars.
However, her conviction carries with it an automatic requirement by law that she pay $150,000 in restitution to her victim’s family. Her attorney argued forcefully that it should be considered cruel and unusual punishment to force her to pay her attacker’s family, but the judge said his hands are tied by the law.
Leland Schipper, one of Lewis’ former teachers, launched a GoFundMe account after her sentencing to seek help paying the fee. In fewer than 24 hours, the account exceeded that $150,000 goal. Schipper raised the fundraising goal to $200,000 on Wednesday morning. The account crossed that goal by 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“Pieper does not deserve to be finically 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,” Schipper wrote on the fundraising page. “A child who was raped, under no circumstances, should owe the rapist’s family money.”
Schipper said in addition to paying the restitution fee, the funds will be used to pay an additional $4,000 restitution to the state, “remove financial barriers” should Lewis want to go to college or start a business, and also to give her the “financial capacity to explore ways to help other young victims of sex crimes.”
“As the Donations have increased, I am overjoyed with the prospect of removing this burden from Pieper,” Schipper wrote.
As of Thursday morning, the total had reached more than $330,000 with over 8,600 individual donations made to the account.