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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'I'm reborn ... voting rights and all'




Alan Crotzer, who served more than 24 years for a rape he didn’t commit, was released a year and half ago, but things continue to happen in his life that make his freedom seem new again.

Thursday he went to the Leon County Supervisor of Elections Office to register to vote. (video here.)

“It’s happening. It’s happening,” Crotzer exclaimed after completing the registration to the cheers of his supporters. “I’m reborn, American citizen, voting rights and all.”

Crotzer registered to vote after being released from prison in January 2006, only to have his rights rescinded. With a minor bit of paperwork Thursday afternoon, he got them back.

Crotzer, 46, was convicted in 1981 of a double rape in Hillsborough County. DNA evidence cleared him.

The former St. Petersburg resident now lives in Tallahassee with his new wife and her two teenagers. He recently got a job with a landscaping business.

His light green work shirt was brimmed with sweat as he stepped into the cool elections office shortly after 12:30 p.m. Crotzer approached the desk and politely asked for a registration form. He spelled his name and gave his date of birth, then checked off his desired political affiliation, Democrat.

The man behind the desk, Manuel Lopez, asked him if he wanted to serve as a poll worker. “No, not right now. I’m just trying to hold a job.”

And with that, Crotzer was registered to vote. A sticker affirming his new status hung to his shirt. His new voting card will be ready in a few days.

“I’ve never been a political person but I realized after going through what I went through for almost a quarter century that there needs to be some serious reforms made ... in and outside prison,” Crotzer told reporters.

Thursday’s event was staged to send a larger message than his voter participation.
Crotzer is still seeking $1.25-million from the Legislature for the time he spent in prison. The award, known as a claims bill, was held up during the last session but Crotzer said he is optimistic lawmakers will come through.

He said an alternative is for the Legislature to approve an automatic process in which the wrongfully convicted are compensated instead of individually seeking money to restart life.

“My whole world is gone, so I’m trying to rebuild it,” Crotzer said. “Today is a new birth for me.”

-- Alex Leary

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:02pm]


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