The Alabama man who only received probation for repeatedly raping his teenage neighbor will receive a new sentence, following intense public pressure on Judge James Woodruff to issue a more appropriate punishment.
Woodruff recently filed an order to re-sentence Austin Smith Clem, who was convicted of one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape. While Clem was technically sentenced to a total of 40 years for his three crimes, Woodruff suspended Clem’s sentence in such a way that he would only serve two years in a community corrections program for non-violent offenders, and three years of probation.
Alabama judges have an unusual amount of discretion to suspend sentences in this way. Even though state law dictates mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes like rape, judges can order the defendant to serve that time out of custody.
But prosecutors claimed that the light sentencing was still illegal, ignoring minimums for even a suspended sentence, and filed a legal challenge with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
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Courtney Andrews, the victim, agreed to be named and spoke out publicly in hopes of drawing attention to Clem’s light sentence. She had feared for her own and her family’s safety if Clem walked free.
“I’m pleased there is going to be a new sentencing, but it’s hard for me to put much faith into it because I was so sure he was going to get prison time last time,” Andrews told AL.com.