Florida Lawmakers Consider Restitution Payment for Wrongly Convicted Man

By: Mike Vasilinda
By: Mike Vasilinda

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was President, Bob Graham was Governor of Florida, and EPCOT was still under construction. It was also the year a St. Petersburg, FL man went to prison for a rape he didn't commit.

Now, state lawmakers are trying to find a way to repay him for the 24 years he lost.

Al Crotzer is pounding the halls of the State Capitol with the help of the Innocence Project. He knows exactly how long he spent in prison.

"Twenty four years, six months, 13 days before, I was wrongly convicted."

After all that time, DNA freed Crotzer. He says shoddy police work made his conviction possible in the first place. "I’m supposed to be white complected, six feet tall, oh about 180, 200 pounds,” he explains. “In actuality I was 5’7”.”

Legislation to pay the wrongly convicted $50,000 per year for every year they lost was approved unanimously by a Senate committee.

Then, the unusual happened; a quiet apology from the committee chairman.

Al Crotzer’s mother died six years ago. She taught him to never give up.

"She was little,” he said. “She wasn’t an attacking person. She always told me that God would fix it, he’d fix it right, and that’s what he did. I always believed in what she told me."

The legislation has had trouble getting a hearing in the House, but Crotzer and his lawyers got a key meeting right after the Senate vote and after 24 years in prison, Crotzer has learned to be patient.

If the bill that was approved in committee Tuesday becomes law, Crotzer will be eligible for a payment of $1.2 million for his 24 years behind bars.


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