Story by the Associated Press; curated by Jason Howerton
ATHENS, Ala. (AP) -- A judge who was ordered to resentence a man convicted of rape after initially imposing a penalty that didn't require prison again ruled that the defendant could avoid serving time in a decision released Monday.
Austin Clem (Contributed by Athens Police Department)
Limestone County Circuit Judge James Woodroof suspended a prison term for Austin Clem, 25, and ordered him instead to spend five years on probation for a series of assaults on a former neighbor.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals had ordered the second sentencing because prosecutors appealed after Woodroof's original sentence didn't require prison time. They claimed the lenient sentence violated state law.
In a statement to The Associated Press, victim Courtney Andrews said she was "extremely upset" with Woodroof's latest decision.
"I can't believe it," said Andrews, 20. "After all that I've had to go through, he still gets to walk away. It's like I've been punched in the face over and over by this judge."
While the AP usually does not identify victims of sexual assault, Andrews has been speaking publicly about her case to raise awareness about what she saw as a lenient penalty.
The foreman of the jury that convicted Clem in September had said the panel expected Clem to serve prison time.
District Attorney Brian C.T. Jones, who fought the first sentence, almost immediately challenged the second one.
A lawyer for Clem did not return an email seeking comment.
Clem was convicted on three counts of rape for assaults on Andrews, who was a family friend. Prosecutors said the assaults began seven years ago when she was 13.
Rather than requiring prison, Woodroof initially sentenced Clem to spend two years with a community corrections program that lets defendants continue working and living at home. The man was also ordered to spend three years on probation and pay $1,631 in restitution to the victim.
The second sentence dropped the requirement for participation in community corrections and increased Clem's probationary period to five years.
Clem already is listed as a sex offender on a state registry because of the conviction, and he must stay away from the victim and her family.