Exonerated man faces sex charge in St. Pete

September 10th, 2010 by Staff

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 woman 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 nonexistent crimes.

“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 lives in Tallahassee, was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, a misdemeanor. He posted $250 bail after spending more than eight hours in jail.

The arrest came after police responded about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday to a report of people involved in drug transactions and prostitution in an alley behind Fifth Street South, said police spokesman Mike Puetz.

An officer found a woman performing a sex act on Crotzer in his 2008 Dodge Avenger, Puetz said. The woman, Laquisha Hatten, 23, also was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior.

Puetz said Crotzer told investigators he had been in Miami and was on his way back to Tallahassee when he stopped by the south side of St. Petersburg to visit friends.

Crotzer told police he knew Hatten and picked her up to talk to her, and that he did not pay her for sex, Puetz said.

Hatten had been arrested Monday on a prostitution charge in another incident and pleaded no contest before she was sentenced to jail time.

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 an interview Thursday, Crotzer denied he had sex with Hatten.

“That ain’t true,” he said.

He said he had been on Florida’s east coast discussing his personal history at a public defender’s officer and at the Nova Southeastern 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.

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.”

He said his arrest would not deter him from visiting his old haunts in St. Petersburg.

“I’m not gonna stop coming to my ‘hood,” he said. “I think they don’t want me to become a normal person.”

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