25 year-old Austin Smith Clem will serve no prison time after being found guilty of raping Courtney Andrews, a teenage neighbor three times — twice when she was 14 and once when she was 18.
Courtney says that Clem lived next door when she was still living with her family in Athens. Clem sexually abused her when she was 13 (but did not share details of that experience) and he was 18 or 19. She recalled that he kept telling her that it was OK, and asking her not to say anything–or she would get him in trouble. There were two sexual encounters when she was 14.
When asked why she did not tell her parents, she explained that Clem had threatened their lives if she told. She and a friend did, however, tell Clem’s wife. Nothing was done about it.
After he raped her when she was 18, a friend told her parents what was happening because Courtney “knew it would break their hearts.”
District Attorney Brian Jones called multiple witnesses, including Courtney Andrews’ best friend, her father, and a nurse, according to AL.com. The defense called no witnesses.
After just two hours of deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts for one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second degree rape.
Judge James Woodruff sentenced Clem to 10 years in prison for both second degree rape charges, and 20 years for the first degree rape. That’s 40 years in prison! Justice is served!
And then we’re reminded that this happened in Alabama!
According to the rapist’s sentencing order, obtained by Mother Jones, Woodruff decided to place Clem in a program aimed at, according to the program’s web site, “redirecting the lives” of low-level offenders who are “likely to maintain a productive and law-abiding life as a result of accountability, guidance, and direction to services they need.” In other words, Clem will be able to live at home with his three young daughters as long as he abides by some guidelines.
Pretending that his client did not get off easy, defense attorney Dan Totten defended the sentence: “But [Clem’s] lifestyle for the next 6 years is going to be very controlled…If he goes to a party and they’re serving beer, he can’t say, ‘Can I have one?’ If he wanted to go across the Tennessee line, which as the crow flies is 8 or 9 miles from his house, and buy a lottery ticket, he can’t do that…It’s not a slap on the wrist.” That’s right–no beer, and he has to modify his travel plans a little, while this young woman has to live with this violation her entire life.
Clem will also have to register as a sex offender, serve three years on supervised probation, and pay fines and restitution–a whopping $2381!
AL.com noted that Alabama statutes would have allowed the judge to simply hand down a shorter prison term, rather than granting him an incredibly light sentence intended for nonviolent offenders.
The Andrews family has asked the judge, who defense attorney Totten admits was a childhood friend, to reconsider–but that request fell upon the deaf ears of the former neighbor and childhood friend of Mr. Clem’s defense attorney. Totten claims that their friendship did not factor in to his client’s absurdly lenient sentencing, however.
Courtney Andrews, who is now 20 years old, says that she fears for her family’s safety as long as Clem is free. Andrews, who now lives in Mobile and is a student at the University of South Alabama, says she has moved to be as far away from him as possible.