The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

December 29, 2013

Limestone D.A. clears major cases in 2013

Part 1 of 3


ATHENS — Clem - rape conviction

In September, Austin Smith Clem, 25, of Athens, was convicted of raping a girl who was a family friend, neighbor and babysitter. Prosecutors say Clem raped the victim, Courtney Andrews, twice when she was 14. She did not tell her parents but told a friend two years later.

Prosecutors said Clem raped Andrews again at his apartment on Dec. 6, 2011, when she was 18. Andrews said Clem lured her there under the pretense of seeing the children. She said she fought Clem during this incident, including pushing him away, straightening her legs to prevent penetration, biting his collarbone and scratching his back. She told her friend about the rape the same night and then told her parents, who took her to report it to Athens Police.

Clem’s defense attorney, Dan Totten, said the victim was “a girl rejected and she got even." He said there was no proof of rape, including no evidence of a fight or DNA after she reported being raped at 18.

The case became controversial when Judge James Woodroof Jr. sentenced Clem - who had a juvenile record involving the sodomy of a boy - to probation but no prison time on one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape. The district attorney's office is appealing that sentence.

Birge - manslaughter plea

In October, a former Madison woman once convicted of capital murder in the 2001 fatal overdose of her husband pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the crime. Kathy Diane Birge, 59, was convicted in 2003 of giving Cecil Birge a lethal dose of Soma on May 5, 2001, at their Copperfield Subdivision home in Limestone County.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction in 2007 due to a chain-of-evidence issue related to pathology evidence. Jones had hoped to retry her. However, the death of a key prosecution witness, the purging of physical evidence at the Indiana lab where the victim's body was examined and, as a result, the family's wish not to re-exhume the body prompted settlement of the case.

For the manslaughter, Birge was sentenced to 145 months - 12 years - already served in prison on forgery and theft convictions related to the manslaughter. She still has time to serve on the theft and forgery.

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