This week, fans lifted it for her — and more.
A GoFundMe started by one of Lewis’ former teachers, Leland Schipper, topped $400,000 starting Thursday.
More than 10,000 donors contributed, mostly in small amounts, increasing the sum days after the teenager’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
“I’m thrilled at the prospect of taking that burden off Pieper,” Schipper wrote in an update to the site.
Lewis, now 17, pleaded guilty to intentional homicide and intentional injury in the 2020 murder of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks. In her plea, she laid out a series of heartbreaking events leading up to that night. She said she ran away from an unstable family life and was then taken in by a 28-year-old man.
He introduced himself as her boyfriend, but forced the 15-year-old to have sex with men. Brooks, she said, was one of them. She said that after repeatedly sexually assaulting her between May 30 and June 1, 2020, and then falling asleep, she went berserk.
“I suddenly realized that Mr. Brooks had raped me again,” Lewis wrote in his plea. She grabbed a knife from her bedside table and stabbed it dozens of times.
Prosecutors did not dispute her claims that she was trafficked, and a Polk County judge wrote that there was evidence that appeared to support her claims. Yet no charges have been brought against the man she accuses of trafficking her. The Des Moines Police Department did not respond to a Washington Post inquiry about whether investigators looked into his account.
In court this week, Lewis faced up to 20 years in prison. But Porter chose to complete her probation at a women’s facility. He also postponed her judgment, which means that if she completes her probation, her record will be expunged.
“Ms. Lewis, this is the second chance you’ve asked for,” he said. He added, “I wish you luck.”
Watching from inside the courthouse, Schipper was heartened by the decision. He told the Des Moines Register that he felt the judge made a fair decision, “delivering compassionate justice and using the system for what it should be designed to do”.
But he was stunned at the payment demanded of her.
“I think people are in shock that Iowa has this law like we do on the $150,000,” Schipper told the newspaper. “It’s a clear example of where it’s completely unfair.”
The right mandates that a person convicted of a crime that results in the death of another person must pay at least $150,000 to the victim’s estate.
Matthew Sheeley, one of Lewis’ lawyers, had argued in court that Brooks was more than 51% responsible for his death. Because of that, he said, she shouldn’t have to pay. He called the demand cruel and unusual.
“I don’t believe the Iowa legislature intended to require a 15-year-old girl…to pay her rapist’s estate $150,000,” he said.
While acknowledging that Lewis and his supporters would be frustrated, Porter said he had no discretion to waive restitution. The Des Moines Register noted that it cited a 2017 case in which the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it was not unconstitutional to require minors convicted of homicide to make payment.
“This court has no other option than that dictated by the law of this state,” he said.
After the hearing, Sheetey said told the local NBC affiliate that the judge’s decision was overall a victory and that restitution was not Lewis’s most important concern. He said she wanted to move on with her life, adding that “she has her whole life ahead of her. She has all these opportunities in front of her.
Schipper, his former teacher, was eager to ease the burden and delighted that fundraising might be able to do so. Lawyers for Lewis told the Register they want to review the legality of using the donated money to pay restitution.
Robert Rigg, a criminal law professor at Drake University Law School, said it was unclear what steps the court would want Lewis or the fundraiser organizers to take to allow the money to cover his payment. refund. He said organizers were free to give the money to Lewis, but could run into obstacles if they tried to make payment directly from the fund itself.
“I would definitely recommend that his defense attorney get court advice. Then the court could say, ‘This is how we’re going to do it,'” Rigg told the Post.
“That way you have a buffer. You’re acting under the direction of a judge, and that way you’re covered,” Rigg said.
After the first $150,000 is paid for restitution, the fund organizer can decide what to do with the rest of the money. Rigg said they could set up a non-profit corporation to give the money to Lewis, or set up a trust in his name “to distribute for his health, welfare and education.”
In an earlier interview with The Post, Sheeley and fellow Lewis defense team member Paul White described her as full of limitless potential. She dreams of becoming a designer, telling her story and championing other girls like her.
“I have no doubt in my mind that whatever obstacles stand in her way, she will overcome them,” Sheeley said. “She won’t let anything get in her way. Deep down, that’s how I feel.