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Monday, Oct 23, 2017
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Crotzer, exonerated in 1981 rapes, faces sex charge in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG - Alan Crotzer spent 24 years in prison for two rapes he did not commit. He was released in 2006 and given more than $1 million to compensate him for his time behind bars. Wednesday night, Crotzer was arrested again. Police said he was having sex with a sometime prostitute in his car. Crotzer again has proclaimed his innocence. He typifies the case as one in which white police officers target blacks for inconsequential or non-existent crimes, and likened St. Petersburg police to the Gestapo. "I know they make a living on people they take advantage of - scare up or put away for little or nothing," he said.
In the latest arrest, Crotzer, 49, a former St. Petersburg resident who lists his home address in Tallahassee, was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, a misdemeanor. He posted $250 bail after spending about 8 and a half hours in jail. The arrest came after police responded at about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday to a report of people involved in drug transactions and prostitution in an alley behind 2518 Fifth Street S., said police spokesman Mike Puetz. An officer in the alley found a woman performing a sex act on Crotzer in his black 2008 Dodge Avenger, Puetz said. He said the act was clearly visible through the Avenger's rolled-down windows. The woman, Laquisha Hatten, 23, also was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior. Puetz said Crotzer told investigators he had been working in Miami and was on his way back to Tallahassee when he decided to stop by the south side of St. Petersburg to visit friends. Crotzer told police he knew Hatten and picked her up to talk to her about his problems, Puetz said. Crotzer told police he did not pay Hatten for the sex act. Hatten had been arrested Monday on a prostitution charge in another incident and pleaded no contest before she was sentenced to jail time. Wednesday night, Crotzer asked to speak to his wife, and officers called her for him, Puetz said. Crotzer was convicted in 1981 of raping two women during a robbery in Tampa, but DNA tests in 2006 proved he did not commit those crimes. In addition to being exonerated in the 1981 rapes, Crotzer was pardoned in an unrelated 1979 robbery case. Crotzer said he had stolen beer from a store but eventually was convicted of robbing the store at gunpoint. He was also found guilty in 1991 on bringing drugs into prison; he said he sold the drugs under pressure from a corrupt guard. Crotzer this morning denied he had sex with Hatten. "That ain't true," he said of the allegation, after offering to meet a Tampa Tribune reporter and a WFLA-TV reporter in the alley where he was arrested. He gave a sequence of events different from the police department's. He said he had been on Florida's east coast discussing his personal history at a public defender's officer and at the Nova Law School in Fort Lauderdale. He said he decided to stop in St. Petersburg, where his sister lives, on his way home to Tallahassee. Crotzer said he ran into Hatten, whom he described as a friend who was having personal problems. He suggested she get into his Avenger to talk about the problems. He didn't want to take her to his sister's house, so he decided to go into an alley south of 25th Avenue, he said. Crotzer said after he pulled into the alley, he noticed two St. Petersburg police squad cars nearby. Hatten was concerned, he said, but he told her not to worry because they weren't doing anything wrong. He said he then saw two officers running up the alley with flashlights. At first he thought they were pursuing a drug dealer but noticed they were running up to his car, yelling at him to keep his hands where they could see them, telling him, "Don't move." Unlike the police, Crotzer said his windows were rolled up, with the air conditioning on. "I said, 'Let me let down the window,'" Crotzer said. "I'm trying to tell them, 'There are no weapons in here.'" Crotzer vociferously denied Hatten was performing a sex act on him. He said police decided to charge them after they searched his Avenger, found no weapons and no drugs and discovered Hatten's criminal history. "Don't use her background and say, 'You all are committing a lewd and lascivious act,'" he said. "Because I'm black, because she's black," Crotzer said, "Because I am who I am and she's a person of trouble, it's a problem." However, he said, his arrest would not deter him from visiting his old haunts in St. Petersburg in the future. "I'm not gonna stop coming to my 'hood," he said. "I think they don't want me to become a normal person." "Everything I do is scrutinized," he said. "I can't even drink a beer without someone thinking the wrong thing about me."

Reporter Stephen Thompson can be reached at (727) 451-2336.

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