A fundraiser for a 17-year-old Black girl convicted of murdering her sex trafficker and ordered to pay his family $150,000 has now raised about $600,000 to pay off the debt and give her a start in a life marred by abuse, neglect and rape.
Pieper Lewis, a sex trafficking victim, murdered her rapist and tormentor two years ago.
Earlier this month, she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury for stabbing to death Zachary Brooks, 37, who authorities admitted raped her multiple times in 2020 when she was 15.
Brooks, whom prosecutors acknowledged purchased Pieper from a sex-trafficking ring, repeatedly drugged and beat the young teen.
Polk County District Judge David Porter sentenced Pieper to five years of supervised probation and ordered her to pay $150,000 restitution to the man’s family.
The judge said Iowa law required the $150,000 restitution to the dead man’s family and $4,000 to the state.
In court, Pieper spoke about overcoming her challenging situation.
“My spirit has been burned but still glows through the flames,” she read from a prepared statement. “Hear me roar, see me glow and watch me grow. I am a survivor.”
While support for Pieper had been elusive – she was raised in foster care and shipped from home to home – her high school math teacher has stepped in to offer what no one had ever done.
Leland Schipper started a Go Fund Me for Pieper to help offset the cost of the $150,000 judgment and to help her restart her life.
“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 fundraising site. “I was incredibly proud of her. She was powerful and she brought me to tears.”
Schipper said Pieper, who had already spent nearly three years in juvenile detention awaiting trial, did not deserve to spend time in an adult prison.
“Instead, the judge gave her five years of probation. He decided that the 834 days she spent in juvenile detention awaiting her sentencing was enough ‘punishment’ for a then 15-year-old girl who had been kicked out of her home and found herself sleeping in the stairwell of one of the most dangerous apartment complexes in Des Moines,” the math teacher asserted.
“As a girl she was ultimately preyed upon by men twice her age who traded her body for drugs. These men physically assaulted, raped, and sex trafficked Pieper on multiple occasions. Finally, on June 1st, 2020, Pieper snapped and killed one of the men who exploited and raped her, stabbing him to death,” Schipper said.
The fundraiser has netted nearly $600,000 to date.
“Our system is broken. It will take decades of advocacy and electing people committed to rethinking and reimagining our criminal justice system, especially our juvenile one, to fix the system,” Schipper said.