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Iowa Teen Who Killed Rapist Sentenced, Ordered to Pay $150K

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Pieper Lewis, 17, pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in the June 2020 killing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines.

A teenage human trafficking victim who was initially charged with first-degree murder after she stabbed her accused rapist to death was sentenced Tuesday in an Iowa court to five years of closely supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to the man’s family.

Pieper Lewis, 17, was sentenced Tuesday after she pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in the June 2020 killing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines. Both charges were punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Polk County District judge David M. Porter on Tuesday deferred those prison sentences, meaning that if Lewis violates any portion of her probation, she could be sent to prison to serve that 20-year term.

As for being required to pay the estate of her rapist, “this court is presented with no other option,” Porter said, noting the restitution is mandatory under Iowa law that has been upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Lewis was 15 when she stabbed Brooks more than 30 times in a Des Moines apartment. Officials have said Lewis was a runaway who was seeking to escape an abusive life with her adopted mother and was sleeping in the hallways of a Des Moines apartment building when a 28-year-old man took her in before forcibly trafficking her to other men for sex.

Lewis said one of those men was Brooks and that he had raped her multiple times in the weeks before his death. She recounted being forced at knifepoint by the 28-year-old man to go with Brooks to his apartment for sex. She told officials that after Brooks had raped her yet again, she grabbed a knife from a bedside table and stabbed Brooks in a fit of rage.

Police and prosecutors have not disputed that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked. But prosecutors have argued that Brooks was asleep at the time he was stabbed and not an immediate danger to Lewis.

Iowa is not among the dozens of states that have a so-called safe harbor law that gives trafficking victims at least some level of criminal immunity.

Lewis, who earned her GED while being held in juvenile detention, acknowledged in a statement prior to her sentencing that she struggled with the structure of her detention, including “why I was treated like fragile glass” or wasn’t allowed to communicate with her friends or family.

“My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames,” she read from a statement she had prepared. “Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow.”

“I am a survivor,” she added.

The Associated Press does not typically name victims of sexual assault, but Lewis agreed to have her name used previously in stories about her case.

Prosecutors took issue with Lewis calling herself a victim in the case and said she failed to take responsibility for stabbing Brooks and “leaving his kids without a father.”

The judge peppered Lewis with repeated requests to explain what poor choices she made that led up to Brooks’ stabbing and expressed concern that she sometimes did not want to follow rules set for her in juvenile lockup.

“The next five years of your life will be full of rules you disagree with, I’m sure of it,” Porter said. He later added, “This is the second chance that you’ve asked for. You don’t get a third.”

Karl Schilling with the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance said a bill to create a safe harbor law for trafficking victims passed the Iowa House earlier this year, but stalled in the Senate under concerns from law enforcement groups that it was too broad.

“There was a working group established to iron out the issues,” Shilling said. “Hopefully it will be taken up again next year.”

Iowa does have an affirmative defense law that gives some leeway to victims of crime if the victim committed the violation “under compulsion by another’s threat of serious injury, provided that the defendant reasonably believed that such injury was imminent.”

Prosecutors argued Tuesday that Lewis waived that affirmative defense when she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and willful injury.

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Indonesia Passes New Law To Criminalize Sex Outside Of Marriage

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GETTY There were protests against the new code on Monday

Indonesian lawmakers passed a sweeping new criminal code on Tuesday that criminalizes sex outside marriage, as part of a tranche of changes that critics say threaten human rights and freedoms in the Southeast Asian country.

The new code, which also applies to foreign residents and tourists, bans cohabitation before marriage, apostasy, and provides punishments for insulting the president or expressing views counter to the national ideology.

“All have agreed to ratify the (draft changes) into law,” said lawmaker Bambang Wuryanto, who led the parliamentary commission in charge of revising the colonial-era code. “The old code belongs to Dutch heritage … and is no longer relevant.”

The world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has seen a rise in religious conservatism in recent years. Strict Islamic laws are already enforced in parts of the country, including the semi-autonomous Aceh province, where alcohol and gambling are banned. Public floggings also take place in the region for a range of offences including homosexuality and adultery.

A previous draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019 but was postponed after nationwide protests prompted Indonesian President Joko Widodo to intervene. In a televised address at the time, Widodo said he decided to delay the vote after “seriously considering feedback from different parties who feel objections on some substantial content of the criminal code.”

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s vote, rights groups and critics warned that the new code would “disproportionately impact women” and further curtail human rights and freedoms in the country of more than 270 million people.

Human Rights Watch Indonesia Researcher Andreas Harsono said the laws are “a setback for already declining religious freedom in Indonesia,” warning that “non-believers could be prosecuted and jailed.”

“The danger of oppressive laws is not that they’ll be broadly applied, it’s that they provide an avenue for selective enforcement,” he said.

Under the laws, sex outside marriage carries a potential one-year prison term, and the crime of blasphemy, already on Indonesia’s books, could now lead to a five-year prison sentence.

Rahmat Purnama, from the University of Indonesia’s law faculty, said the laws would be implemented after a transitional period of three years.

Source: CNN

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Elon Musk Hopes to Test a Brain Implant in Humans Next Year

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In this still image from the Neuralink presentation video on YouTube, a presenter, lower left, described how a monkey used a wireless transmitter to “type” characters on a keyboard.Credit...Neuralink

Neuralink, the startup Elon Musk founded to link our brains directly to computers, showed progress Wednesday in two medical areas: helping blind people to see and helping people with spinal cord injuries to walk or use their hands.

The company, one of five that Musk leads, is working on technology to drop thousands of electrodes thinner than a hair into the outer surface of human brains. Each electrode is a tiny wire connected to a battery-powered, remotely recharged, quarter-sized chip package that’s embedded into a spot that once held a circle of skull. The chip, called the N1, communicates wirelessly with the outside world.

The technology is still far from the initial medical uses, much less Musk’s ultimate vision of using Neuralink to hang out with superintelligent AIs. But the company is making significant progress, including applying with the Food and Drug Administration to begin human trials it hopes to start within six months, the company said at a “show and tell” event lasting more than two hours.

“Our goal will be to turn the lights on for someone who’s spent decades living in the dark,” said Neuralink researcher Dan Adams, who’s working on the effort to repackage camera data into a brain-compatible format and pipe it directly to the visual cortex.

Musk has some cred when it comes to revolutionary tech. His electric-vehicle company Tesla is profoundly changing cars and his SpaceX outfit is transforming space access with reusable rockets. His reputation as a tech genius has taken a beating, though, with the chaos at Twitter after his $44 billion acquisition. Musk’s Boring Company, which aims to revamp auto transportation with tunnels, also hasn’t lived up to its promises yet.

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US President Joe Biden turns 80 Today: New Generation’ of Democratic Leaders Takes Control in Congress

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President Joe Biden will celebrate his 80th birthday on Sunday, marking the first time a sitting president has reached that milestone while in office and fueling speculation about how his advancing age will affect his political future.

Biden — who was the oldest person to assume the presidency in January 2021, just 61 days after his 78th birthday — has said he intends to make another White House bid, even as his age-adjacent peers, including 82-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have made the decision to step away from leadership in order to make way for a younger generation.

“My intention is that I will run again. But I’m a great respecter of fate and this is ultimately a family decision. I think everybody wants me to run but we’re going to have discussions about it. And I don’t feel any hurry one way or the other to make that judgment.” he said last week, after helming what many say is the most successful midterm election for a sitting president’s party in decades, though noting that those results would not have an impact on his decision to run again.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden greets guests before speaking at an event at the White House complex, Nov. 18, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Biden is the oldest person to serve as commander in chief in the nation’s history. Should he seek reelection in 2024 and win, the president would be 86 by the end of his second term. He has said he’ll talk over his future with his wife and the rest of his family over the holidays.

Biden has said he is hoping that he and his wife “get a little time to actually sneak away for a week around between Christmas and Thanksgiving” and that his decision to run for reelection will likely “be early next year we make that judgment.”

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