A Florida man who was exonerated of rape after spending 25 years in prison is behind bars once again….this time on charges of attempted murder. But, as Sascha Cordner reports, those who have gotten to know Alan Crotzer, who has become a champion for wrongly convicted prisoners and an advocate for ex-felons rights, say the allegations against the former inmate seem out of character.
Tom Powell, lawyer for Alan Crotzer, says words can even express how he views the charges against his client.
“I can’t find any word to describe them other than bizarre,” said Powell.
Crotzer, who spent 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, is now back in jail for charges of attempted murder in the first degree, for allegedly firing multiple shots at another man, while driving on a busy street in Tallahassee.
“A shooting at 40 miles an hour on Appalachee Parkway in broad daylight, on a late Sunday afternoon, over a some dispute over a compact disc that happened several months before," remarked Powell. "It makes no sense!”
The victim of the shooting is Antoine Davis, who claims Crotzer shot at him at least eight times, resulting in injuries to his arm and leg. He also told Tallahassee Police that he had a confrontation with Crotzer over a CD Davis gave Crotzer’s girlfriend, a few months ago.
Davis later identified Crotzer in a photo line-up, which led to Crotzer’s arrest. Crotzer’s lawyer, Tom Powell, found that very ironic.
“Most recently, he’s [Crotzer] been focused on the problems associated with eyewitness identification and how unreliable it is in many circumstances and how it’s fraught with danger of convicting innocent people," said Powell. "And, suddenly he is in jail based on a statement and eyewitness identification from a photo-lineup. There's just an inescapable irony in that.”
Powell, who’s known Crotzer for about a year, says these events don’t seem to match the man that he’s gotten to know.
And, Mark Schlakman agrees. He’s known Crotzer for several years, while Schlakman’s been the Board chairman of the Innocence Project of Florida, the group that helped Crotzer get freed using DNA evidence.
“I’ve had an opportunity to observe him in many kinds of settings from his engagement with at-risk youth to he is a very articulate spokesperson," said Schlakman. "He’s very impassioned about issues relating to exonerees in terms of their paths to freedom as well as what awaits, those who are fortunate to be exonerated, what awaits them afterward.”
He says with all the good work Crotzer has done, including as a board member of the Innocence Project of Florida, he finds it hard to believe that he would get involved in such an altercation.
Schlakman helped to get Crotzer’s story to lawmakers, and Crotzer soon had quite a few fans in the Florida Legislature, when lawmakers agreed to give him 1.25 million dollars for his wrongful conviction in 2008.
That includes Senator Arthenia Joyner, who voted in favor of Crotzer’s claims bill. Given these new charges against Crotzer, the Tampa Democrat says the Legislature has no way of knowing if someone they compensate for a wrongful conviction will commit a crime in the future.
“I just think that this is one of the instances where allegations of criminal activity has taken place and he’ll have to navigate through the criminal justice system," said Joyner. "But, I have no regrets about awarding him that money because it was awarded because of his wrongful years of incarceration in the Florida penal system.”
Meanwhile, incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, who’s only ever voted for one claims bill, says the entire claim process needs to be reformed. He was one of five Senators who voted against the claims bill that would have compensated Crotzer for his time in prison.
“My reason for not voting for Crotzer’s claims bill is that I believe that the claims bill process is flawed and needs to be improved," said Gaetz. "I don’t think the Legislature should be a finder of fact or a kind of supernumerary judge and jury. I think that those situations should be few and far between and much better organized with a much better logic to the system.”
Currently, Crotzer is still in jail without bond. He’s residing in the medical unit of Leon County Jail, and is getting treated for chronic high blood pressure.
Crotzer’s attorney says he has not yet had time to discuss the charges with Crotzer one-on-one, but he intends to file a plea of not guilty.