When a court convicts a criminal but fails to put him in jail, the justice system doesn’t get a do-over.
So ruled a Missouri judge Tuesday, releasing Cornealious “Mike” Anderson, a 37-year-old man convicted of robbery when he was 23 who never served jail time because of a clerical error. The judge gave Anderson credit for the time he served on the street, a total of 4,794 days.
“Go home to your family, Mr. Anderson,” said Mississippi County Associate Circuit Judge Terry Lynn Brown after a 10-minute hearing, the Associated Press reported.
Though he did the crime, Anderson seems to have been a model citizen while not doing time:
“Day by day, month by month, year by year, time passed, and they never picked me up,” he said in an interview last month with the Associated Press.
A court filing by the Attorney General’s Office said the mistake happened when a trial court clerk failed to inform the Missouri Supreme Court that Anderson was free on bond after his initial conviction.
So Anderson went about his life, never trying to conceal his whereabouts or identity. He married, divorced, married again. He raised three children of his own and a stepchild, owned and operated three construction businesses. He coached his son’s youth football team in Webster Groves, and he ran the video operation at his church.
Anderson has been in jail since July, when the Missouri Department of Corrections discovered its mistake, but the state offered few objections to his “get out of jail free” card:
Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement, “From the outset, I have proposed a solution that balances the seriousness of Mr. Anderson’s crime with the mistake made by the criminal justice system and Mr. Anderson’s lack of a criminal record over the past 13 years. Today’s outcome appears to appropriately balance the facts as we understand them.”