Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wrongly imprisoned Crotzer receives financial compensation from Florida

By Stephen D. Price Tallahassee bureau

TALLAHASSEE — Alan Crotzer has heard plenty of apologies from lawmakers and state officials for 24 years he spent in prison for crimes he didn't commit.

Today he and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink signed the $1.25 million agreement that will put dollars behind those words. Crotzer will receive a tax-free lump sum of $250,000 and then $6,700 a month for 20 years beginning June 1 from an annuity.

"Twenty-seven years ago the state made a mistake, Alan Crotzer ended up paying for that mistake with over 24 years of his life, in pain and suffering, " said CFO Sink.

Crotzer thanked his team of lawyers, family and God for getting him to this point.

"I hope this is truly the beginning of a not-ending life for me," Crotzer said.

Frank Peterman, Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, has said he is looking for a job for Crotzer in his department. Crotzer said he wants to counsel youth to stay out of trouble.

Crotzer was charged with rape, aggravated assault and false imprisonment in 1981 and eventually received a 130-year sentence. He was set free in 2006 after DNA evidence proved he was innocent.

Sink said the claims process has been made less political since the Legislature approved a bill that will allow automatic compensation for the wrongfully incarcerated. The plan includes a provision to make those with prior felony convictions ineligible for the automatic payment.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, sponsored that bill and gave some of the credit for it passing to the attention given to Crotzer's fight for compensation.

"The fact that Mr. Crotzer was in the claims process this year helped highlight the importance in Florida seeking to do what's right," Joyner said.

Since Crotzer has a felony on his record for stealing beer as a teenager, he would not have been eligible for automatic compensation.

Crotzer, who is from St. Petersburg, said he wants to stay in the Tallahassee area and buy a house. He also promised to return to the capital next year and lobby lawmakers to refine the "clean hands" provision on the global compensation bill.

"It would make me feel good," Crotzer said.

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