TAMPA, Fla. – A 45-year-old who has spent more than half his life in prison for armed robbery and rape will be freed after DNA evidence created "significant doubt" about his guilt, prosecutors said Friday.
The Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office said it would support a defense motion to vacate Alan Crotzer's 1982 convictions and 130-year prison sentence.
"After carefully weighing all available evidence, the State Attorney's Office has concluded that significant doubt exists as to Mr. Crotzer's guilt in this case," the office said in a statement Friday.
Crotzer's attorneys with the Florida Innocence Initiative told him of the development in an afternoon conference call, said Sam Roberts, a Fordham University law student who has worked closely with attorneys on the case. Roberts described Crotzer as "overwhelmed, emotional and overjoyed."
Crotzer could have been released from the Polk Correctional Institution on Friday, but he asked that it be delayed until after a Jan. 23 court hearing so arrangements could be made for his shelter and support, Roberts said.
Crotzer and brothers Douglas James and Corlenzo James were convicted of robbing a Tampa family in 1981. Douglas James and Crotzer were also convicted of kidnapping and raping a 38-year-old woman and a 12-year-old girl at gunpoint.
A victim picked Crotzer out of a lineup. But Douglas James now says Crotzer is innocent. He said he and his brother were the rapists and a longtime childhood friend was their accomplice.
A jury had found Crotzer guilty of two counts of sexual assault, armed robbery, burglary, aggravated assault and false imprisonment. The James brothers also got long prison sentences.