An Alabama district attorney filed a motion today seeking prison time for Austin Smith Clem, who was convicted of repeatedly raping a teenager—twice when she was 14—but was given only probation and a stint in community corrections as punishment.
Brian Jones, the Limehouse County district attorney, told Mother Jones on Friday that his office was reviewing its options to “achieve a sentence that gives justice to our victim.” This afternoon, Jones emailed reporters a copy of a motion he filed to stay Clem’s sentence and incarcerate him.
Jones has also filed a petition for a writ of mandamus for the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals. The petition argues that Clem’s current sentence is illegal, and it asks the appeals court to order the presiding judge in Clem’s case, Circuit Court Judge James Woodroof, to “vacate his sentencing order…and re-sentence the defendant according to the provisions of Alabama law.”
In September, a jury convicted Clem of two counts of second-degree rape and one count of first-degree rape. Woodroof sentenced Clem to 10 years in prison for each of the second-degree rape charges and 20 years for first-degree rape. But Woodroof “split” the sentence so that Clem would serve two years in Limestone County community corrections program, a program aimed at nonviolent criminals, and three years of probation.
Jones’ petition asks the appeals court to consider whether Woodroof, in doing so, violated the Alabama split-sentence statute and the Alabama Community Punishment and Corrections Act. The petition argues that Alabama law prohibits a sentence for a felony—such as forcible rape—from being served in a community corrections program. “Rape by force or compulsion must be treated by the criminal justice system as a violent offense,” the petition states. “To suggest otherwise runs afoul of thousands of years of both sound jurisprudence and experience.”
On Friday, in response to his punishment, Clem’s victim said she was “livid.”
In an interview with Mother Jones, Clem’s defense attorney, Dan Totten, defended the sentence, saying, “[Clem’s] lifestyle for the next six 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 eight or nine miles from his house, and buy a lottery ticket, he can’t do that.” Totten noted to Mother Jones that he has been friends with Woodroof since childhood. He did not call any witnesses in defense at Clem’s trial.