Ala. official wants reviewed sentence in rape case

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2013 2:34 PM

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama prosecutor wants a state appeals court to review a judge's sentence for a man who was convicted on three counts of rape but avoided any time in prison.

Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones filed papers over the weekend asking the Court of Criminal Appeals to intervene in the case of Austin Smith Clem, 25, of Athens, a clerk said Monday.

Jones also asked a judge to delay the no-prison sentence and temporarily incarcerate Clem.

A petition filed with the appeals court argues the lenient sentence was illegal under state law because Clem was convicted of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape. Clem should have been sentenced to at least three years in prison under the type of sentence the judge ordered, the prosecutor argued.

A jury in September convicted Clem on three counts of rape in a series of sexual assaults on a neighbor and one-time family friend. The woman, now 20, testified that Clem sexually abused her at age 13 and then again when she was 14 and 18.

The defense argued there was no evidence of assault and characterized the victim as a "scorned woman."

Clem could have faced decades behind bars, but Limestone County Circuit Judge James Woodroof last week handed down a sentence that means Clem won't have to spend any time in prison.

Woodroof sentenced Clem to spend two years with a community-based corrections program that will allow him to continue working and living at home, plus spend three years on supervised probation. He was ordered to pay $1,631 in restitution, to stay away from the victim and her family, to register as a sex offender, and to complete counseling.

The victim has told reporters she is outraged by the sentence, which the judge did not explain in his order. The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.

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Rita Pfaff, a friend of the victim, testified that the woman told her at age 16 about the sexual abuse at 13 and rapes at 14. Pfaff said she witnessed the victim telephone Clem's wife to tell her what had happened and that Clem's wife begged the victim not to tell police.

Pfaff said the victim went to Clem's apartment when she was 18 because she was lured there under false pretense — the chance of seeing his three daughters — and another assault occurred.

"He gets released into the free world with a slap on the wrist," Pfaff said. "You don't do this three times and get to go home to three little girls with the chance of doing it again."

Court records show Jones asked Woodroof the order Clem to jail while the case is under review, but the judge did not rule immediately.