published Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Appeals court to review sentence in Alabama rape case

ATHENS, Ala. — A state appeals court has agreed to review the sentence of a north Alabama man who avoided prison despite being convicted on three rape charges in a series of attacks on a former neighbor.

The Decatur Daily reported today the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals will look at the case of Austin Clem, 25.

A court spokesman declined comment on when the judges might rule.

Clem was convicted in September on three counts of rape in a series of sexual assaults on a former neighbor going back years, but Limestone County Circuit Judge James Woodroof this month gave him a sentence that does not require time in prison.

The victim is upset with the light sentence, and the jury foreman said members expected Clem to serve time in prison.

A prosecutor asked the appeals court to look at the sentence, which he argues is illegally lenient.

Woodroof ordered Clem to participate in a community corrections program that lets him live at home and work. He also must spend three years on probation and pay $1,631 in restitution.

In a request to the appellate court, District Attorney Brian Jones argued that law prohibits such a sentence for someone like Clem who was convicted of first-degree rape. The sentence will cause a "gross disruption of criminal justice," Jones told the court.

The judge did not explain the reason for the sentence in court documents, and he declined comment on the case through an aide.

A court-appointed attorney who represents Clem has not returned messages seeking comment, but he has asked for additional funding for an extended court fight.

Clem also was convicted of two counts of second-degree rape in the assaults, which began when the victim, now 20, was 13.

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