Austin Smith Clem, 25, of Athens, Alabama, was convicted of repeatedly raping his teen neighbor, but a judge ruled that he would serve no jail time for his heinous crimes, reports Mother Jones.
Instead of putting Clem behind bars where he belongs, Judge James Woodroof decided that justice in this case was best served by placing him in a program aimed at redirecting the lives of “non-violent offenders who are likely to maintain a productive and law-abiding life as a result of accountability, guidance and direction to services they need.”
The victim, Courtney Andrews, now 20, testified that Clem sexually assaulted her when she was just 13-years-old, raped her twice when she was 14-years-old and again when she was 18-years-old. Though the identities of sexual assault victims are not usually published, she wanted to reveal her identity to speak out against the verdict.
“He kept saying, ‘This is okay,’ and ‘Don’t say anything or you’re going to get me in trouble,’” Andrews said.
She was afraid to tell her parents, but after the last rape in 2011 she asked a family friend to tell them. They immediately called the police.
Courtney’s father Richard Andrews told AL.com that he was stunned by the verdict:
“Back on Sept. 11, my family was very relieved to hear the three guilty verdicts,” he said. “We thought justice was finally being served and although the system was very slow, it was not totally broken. That feeling persisted until yesterday. We were floored to hear the judge hand down such a light sentence.”
Read more from AL.com:
According to the Code of Alabama, first-degree rape, a Class A felony, would have a sentencing range 10 to 99 years in prison. Second-degree rape, a Class B felony, has a range of two to 10 years in prison.
During sentencing, Woodroof officially gave Clem 20 years for the first-degree rape charge and 10 years for each second-degree rape charge. However, he then said he was “splitting” the sentence and required that Clem serve two years in the community corrections program and three years on supervised probation.
The Code of Alabama says a judge has the discretion to “split” a sentence between prison, community corrections or probation, according to findlaw.com, which reads: “…the court may sentence an eligible offender as defined in this section directly to any appropriate community-based alternative provided, either as a part of or in conjunction with a split sentence as provided for in Section 15-18-8, or otherwise as an alternative to prison; or as a condition for a defendant to meet in conjunction with probation; and under such additional terms and conditions as the court may prescribe.”
Dan Totten, Clem’s defense attorney, confirms that Clem is free to live at home during this time period. Jones adds that the program requires Clem to report to his corrections officer on a weekly basis.
In an interview with 48News, Andrews said that she was “baffled” by the judge’s ruling.
“How do you react to that? To know that he gets to go home to his three little girls, and live there with them, watch them grow,” she said.
“He’s still not paying for any of it. When does he have to pay? Because he still hasn’t had to. That’s the thing. I have to pay for the rest of my life. I’ve been paying since I was 13 years old,” Andrews said.
“I was thinking finally I stood up and I’m not afraid anymore. Finally happy for the first time, I can say, in my entire life. And now’s the day I’m not going to walk around scared anymore, because I’m going to know he’s behind bars,” she said.
See 48News interview below:
In an extremely stupid and shockingly insensitive justification, Totten claims that the punishment isn’t a “slap on the wrist” because Clem can’t easily purchase lottery tickets or beer while on probation. He also claims that Andrews didn’t press charges until Clem told her that he was going back to his wife.
This is rape culture, folks.
This is institutionalized misogyny and patriarchy at work. This is a good ‘ole boy judicial system that doesn’t even think rape is a “violent” crime. A child can not consent to sex. The unverifiable back-story about unrequited love amounts to nothing more than the victim-blaming and slut-shaming of a child.
Newsflash: Rape is one of the vilest, most violent crimes in existence and to do so to a child is unconscionable.
As long as conservative politicians continue to wage war on women and the judicial system continues to protect and coddle their attackers, rape culture will continue to infest society.
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