He got a job working an overnight shift as a janitor at St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. People recognized him. They wanted to touch him. An elderly lady slapped him on the forehead and told him to be good.
“It’s like they’re giving me some of their spirit,” he said then. “They’re giving me some goodness.”
Crotzer eventually left St. Petersburg for Tallahassee.
He didn’t keep a pristine record. In 2010, St. Petersburg police arrested Crotzer, saying he had sex with a prostitute. Crotzer told officers he was on his way home to Tallahassee from Miami and had stopped in St. Petersburg to see people he knew. He denied that he and the woman exchanged money. The case was later dropped.
The terms of Crotzer’s $1.25 million settlement included a $250,000 lump sum payment and $6,700 a month for 20 years. In signing the law, then-Gov. Charlie Crist said: “To be wrongly accused, wrongly convicted and wrongly imprisoned is unimaginable.”
Crotzer’s claim won overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature, passing the House, 116-0, and the Senate, 33-5. The House speaker at the time was Republican Marco Rubio of Miami, now Florida’s junior U.S. Senator.
Joyner said his new arrest does not change the facts of Crotzer’s past.
“He was awarded that money by the Legislature for a crime that he didn’t commit, and it had great bipartisan support,” Joyner said. “We all felt he should have been compensated for having been wrongfully incarcerated.”
Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who is expected to become Senate president in November, said it was important to withhold judgment until the facts of Crotzer’s most recent case are known.
“Mr. Crotzer has been arrested. He hasn’t been tried or been given the opportunity to present his case,” Gaetz said. “I don’t think that a comment by a politician would necessarily be appropriate in the middle of a criminal proceeding.”
Gaetz was one of the five senators who voted against Crotzer’s settlement.
“My vote against the claims bill was not because I had a gift of prophecy of what this guy might do,” Gaetz said. “I have some problems with the claims bill process and the fact that claims bills are often approved based on how hot the biscuits were that morning or who the lobbyist is or how the emotions are running.”
The Associated Press and Tampa Bay Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly noted the state settlement paid to the wrongfully convicted Alan Jerome Crotzer. His settlement includes monthly payments of $6,700.