Man who was wrongly imprisoned 24 years arrested

ST. PETERSBURG — Alan Crotzer, the man who spent 24 years in prison before being exonerated for two rapes he did not commit, was arrested Wednesday night after police say he was caught having sex with a prostitute.

A caller told police at about 10 p.m. that people were possibly negotiating a drug deal in an alley behind 2518 Fifth St. S, police said. When officers showed up, they found Crotzer in a black Dodge Avenger with a woman, Laquisha Hatten, 23, police said.

Crotzer, a former St. Petersburg resident, told officers he was on his way home to Tallahassee from Miami and had stopped in St. Petersburg to see some people he knew in the area. He said he had known Hatten for a couple of years, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.

"Hatten told him she was having some problems so they went into the alley to talk about it. While they were talking about her problems, she began performing oral sex on him," Puetz said.

Crotzer told officers no money had been exchanged.

He asked the arresting officers to call his wife. Crotzer's wife, in turn, called her brother, who lives in St. Petersburg, to pick up Crotzer's car. When the brother didn't arrive, officers locked the car and left it to be retrieved later, Puetz said.

Both Crotzer and Hatten were charged with lewd and lascivious behavior. Crotzer was released from Pinellas County Jail Thursday morning after paying $250 bail.

Hatten remained in jail Thursday morning. Hatten was arrested on a prostitution charge Sunday. On Monday, she was convicted on that charge and sentenced to two days in jail, but was credited for time served and released, court records show. Hatten has previous convictions on cocaine possession, retail theft, residential burglary and resisting arrest without violence.

DNA evidence led to the release of Crotzer, 49, from prison in 2006. He was originally convicted in 1982 of raping two women during a Tampa robbery. The state compensated him with $1.25 million after his release.

Crotzer is employed by the state Department of Juvenile Justice. The department's web page lists him as an "intervention specialist" who is "encouraging youth to choose their actions and friends wisely."

Frank Penela, a spokesman for the DJJ, said Crotzer had been in Miami for a work-related speaking engagement.

"He had always wanted to do work with troubled youth — to get them on the straight and narrow. He's been doing that for us for over a year now," Penela said.

Penela said Crotzer makes a "very minimal" salary of about $10,000 per year for his services.

Times staff writer Dominick Tao contributed to this report.

Man who was wrongly imprisoned 24 years arrested 09/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 10:41am]

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