By JAY REEVES
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - An Alabama woman said today she has received public support yet also some criticism for speaking out against the light sentence given to a man convicted of raping her over a period of several years.
Courtney Andrews, 20, said she hopes her decision to come forward will prevent attacks on other women by Austin Clem, 25, who avoided prison time despite the convictions. While The Associated Press typically does not identify victims in sexual assault cases, Andrews said she was speaking publicly about her ordeal to raise awareness about what happened.
"What's done to me has been done, but I don't want this guy to hurt other people," said Andrews.
Prosecutors are asking a state appeals court to order a new sentencing hearing for Clem, calling his punishment illegally lenient. The foreman of the jury that convicted Clem said members believed he would go to prison.
Andrews said she has heard from many people who supported her decision to publicly discuss the charges and Clem's sentence, but some also have criticized her on social media for not immediately reporting the assaults, which began when she was 13.
Clem was a neighbor, Andrews said, and she was a scared teenager.
"It was impossible for me to tell at 13 or 14," said Andrews, who grew up in north Alabama but now attends college in Mobile.
A final attack occurred when she was 18, Andrews said, and she then reported what had happened.
Clem, a father of three young girls who lives in Athens, was charged last year.
Jurors convicted Clem on one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape in September, and Limestone County Circuit Judge James Woodroof sentenced the man last week to spend two years in a community corrections program that lets defendants live at home and continue working. He also must spend three years on probation and pay $1,631 in restitution.
Woodroof did not explain his sentencing decision in court papers and declined comment through an aide, but prosecutors contend state law doesn't allow for such a light sentence for someone convicted of first-degree rape.
Clem's court-appointed lawyer, Dan Totten, did not return a message seeking comment, but he filed a court document asking Woodroof for additional money to pay for expenses in Clem's case.
Totten wrote that "outstanding issues" in the case will involve additional work and expenses exceeding $4,000, the limit set for lawyers representing indigent defendants in taxpayer-funded cases. Totten wrote he already has incurred expenses of $3,311.
Woodroof did not immediately rule on the request or another by prosecutors seeking Clem's immediate arrest while his sentence is challenged.