Alabama Judge James Woodruff gave a convicted child rapist, Austin Clem, 25, counseling and probation instead of jail time. The victim and the defense attorney have no idea why he was given such a lenient sentence. The fact that the judge is a former neighbor and childhood friend of the defense attorney had nothing to do with the sentence according to the the defense attorney.
Austin Clem, 25
The victim, Courtney Andrews told CNN, “I’m still baffled. I don’t know how any of this is possible.” She said she was ‘livid’ and asked the judge to reconsider since Clem has three young daughters. He will be allowed to live with his children.
The defense attorney, Dan Totten, said, “Frankly, I think the judge’s sentence was surprising to most everyone in the courtroom.” While surprised, he felt the sentence was too harsh. He said that Clem had once gone through rehab for sex abuse before he was 15 years old. He also said the evidence wasn’t clear.
Totten said that the sex was consensual but it shouldn’t have happened because Clem was married. He didn’t mention the girl’s age at the time. The victim went to Totten’s house after the rape, Totten said. While not physically violent, Andrews said she was threatened and manipulated.
The fact is, however, Clem was convicted and a judge is supposed to go with the verdict unless there is clear evidence the verdict is inappropriate.
The victim had been raped twice when she was 14. Clem was a neighbor. She said she never told anyone because he threatened to hurt her family.
He raped her again several years later when she was 18. She had a friend tell her parents who immediately called police. She couldn’t bear to tell her parents herself because she knew it would break their hearts.
Clem was convicted of one count of forcible rape and two counts of second-degree rape.
Woodruff handed down jail terms of 20 years for the forcible rape and 10 years each for the second-degree rapes but suspended all and sentenced Clem to counseling plus three years of supervised probation. Clem also has to pay $1600 in restitution to Andrews and her parents.
Clem started abusing Andrews when she was 13. “I was hurt for a long time,” Andrews said. “I had to grow up at a very, very young age, and I know what it’s like to have your life threatened and that no one will understand me.” She now attends the University of Alabama. She decided to come out publicly to let people know about the injustice.
Andrews said Clem will be paying for the next six years but she has been paying since she was 13 and will continue to pay for the rest of her life.
Courtney Andrews, 20
The DA is looking at options to set aside the sentence and have Clem re-sentenced more fairly.
Clem wants to appeal the conviction.
No one knows why the judge handed down the light sentences and he’s not talking. There is that issue of the judge being a childhood friend of the defense attorney. Totten said their childhood friendship had no effect on the sentencing.
Judge James Woodruff
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