TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man who spent more than two decades in prison before he was exonerated of rape and paid more than $1 million has been charged with attempted murder.
Alan Jerome Crotzer, 51, is accused of shooting into a car that he was driving alongside Sunday in Tallahassee, wounding Antoine Davis in his arm and leg.
Davis told police Crotzer threatened him a couple of months ago after they had an argument over a CD he sold Davis' girlfriend. Davis said he saw Crotzer's car when he was leaving a Best Buy store.
Crotzer pulled up to him and fired through an open passenger window while both cars were going about 40 miles per hour, police said. Police found Crotzer based on a description of his car and he was arrested Monday after Davis picked him out of a police lineup.
The news of the arrest stunned those who have worked with Crotzer since he was released from prison in 2006.
"I don't know how to describe the reaction as anything but truly shocking, and based upon my experience over the course of the past several years it is completely out of character," said Mark Schlakman, chairman of the board of directors of the Innocence Project of Florida. "In many respects by my personal experience with him, he's an extraordinary individual."
Crotzer spent more than 24 years in prison after he was convicted of rape in 1982. Crotzer was convicted of robbing a Tampa family and kidnapping and raping a 38-year-old woman and a 12-year-old girl at gunpoint.
Crotzer said he was nowhere near the scene and witnesses corroborated that, but he had a previous robbery conviction when he was 17 and a witness picked him out of a lineup. He was sentenced to 130 years in prison.
Years later, another man convicted in the robbery told police that Crotzer wasn't with them that night and revealed the real rapist. DNA testing along with the other evidence then convinced prosecutors that Crotzer wasn't involved. He was released in 2006.
In 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist pardoned Crotzer for stealing beer in 1979 when he was 18 and bringing marijuana into prison in 1991. Crotzer said then he had turned his life around.
"I'm not that monster they try to make me be. I am a new person," he told The Associated Press in October 2008.
Crotzer is on the board of directors of the Innocence Project of Florida and has made public appearances speaking out on those who are wrongfully convicted by the state.
Schlakman said Crotzer is a powerful and compelling speaker, adding that he "has not evidenced any deep-seated bitterness based upon what he endured by way of his wrongful conviction."
A man identifying himself as Crotzer's brother answered the door at his Tallahassee apartment. His only comment was that the family was working on a response to the allegations.
A call to Crotzer's attorney also was not immediately returned. Crotzer was still in jail Tuesday.
One of Crotzer's neighbors said he sometimes heard loud noises from Crotzer's apartment but did not know him well. Dean Andrews said heavily-armed police showed up Monday night and surrounded the apartment building before arresting Crotzer.
The Florida Legislature in 2008 approved a bill that paid Crotzer $1.25 million for his time spent in prison. Crotzer and the state signed an agreement that guaranteed him a $6,700 a month payment for 20 years as well as a $250,000 lump sum.
The measure was a top priority of then-Senate President Ken Pruitt, but other top legislators supported the measure including then-House Speaker Marco Rubio. One of the co-sponsors was Adam Hasner, currently a candidate for Congress.