CHARLESTON, Mo. — A Missouri man who didn’t go to prison for more than a decade because of a clerical error can go home to his family, a judge ruled Monday.
Cornealious “Mike” Anderson, then 23, helped rob the assistant manager of a Burger King in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles, Mo., in 1999. In 2000, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, but the order to report for incarceration never came — even though he had asked his then-lawyer when it would happen.
In the years since, Anderson started his own construction-related business, got married, divorced, married again, had three children and became father to a stepchild. Anderson, now 37, also coached youth football and volunteered at his church in Webster Groves, Mo.
“Day by day, month by month, year by year, time passed, and they never picked me up,” he told The Associated Press last month.
In July, when Anderson’s original prison sentence was supposed to have ended, someone at the Missouri Department of Corrections realized he never had been put behind bars. Eight U.S. marshals arrived one morning at his home and took him away; he had been in Southeast Correctional Center here ever since, 150 miles away from his wife and children.
“You’ve been a good father. You’ve been a good husband. You’ve been a good taxpaying citizen of the state of Missouri,” said Judge Terry Lynn Brown of Missouri’s 33rd Judicial Circuit Court in Charleston, Mo. “That leads me to believe that you are a good man and a changed man.”
The judge said Anderson would be given credit for the 4,794 days between when he was convicted and when he was arrested last year and allowed him to walk out of the courtroom with his wife and 3-year-old daughter on one arm and his grandmother on the other.
As the judge announced his decision during a hearing that took 10 minutes, about 10 of Anderson’s relatives broke out in sobs and cried. Anderson stared straight ahead but dabbed tears from his eyes. Afterward, he hugged his toddler daughter.
In February, Anderson’s lawyers had filed an appeal calling his imprisonment unfair and unjust and asked Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to commute the sentence or grant clemency. Last month, an online petition to free Anderson received more than 35,000 signatures on Change.org.
Even state Attorney General Chris Koster seemed inclined to find a solution to resolve what he called a “difficult situation.”
In court Monday, Michael Spillane, a Missouri assistant attorney general, told Brown that he should consider the seriousness of Anderson’s crime, “but also Anderson’s behavior over the 13 years of his freedom and the impact that imprisonment would have on his family.”
Contributing: The Associated Press