Alabama District Attorney Brian Jones wants to overturn an Alabama judge’s controversial decision granting a convicted rapist probation with no time in jail. Circuit Judge James Woodruff changed Austin Smith Clem’s sentence so that instead of decades in jail, he serves several years of probation and in a community program for nonviolent criminals.
Jones has filed a petition that asks Woodruff’s sentence be overturned, arguing it violates Alabama law that prevents a felony 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 reads. “To suggest otherwise runs afoul of thousands of years of both sound jurisprudence and experience.” In the meantime, Jones has also filed a motion to stay the sentence to keep the rapist in prison.
Clem had been convicted by a jury for one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape, for raping a girl twice when she was 14 and again at 18. Without presenting any of his own witnesses, Clem’s defense lawyer Dan Totten presented the rape survivor as a “scorned woman” during the trial. The victim said she is “floored” and “livid” over the sentence and expressed fears for her safety with her assailant out of jail.
Mother Jones reports that a network of Alabama rape crisis centers are seeking to change a state statute so that rape is explicitly considered a violent felony and ineligible for too light a sentence.