In 2000, Cornealious “Mike” Anderson was convicted of first-degree robbery and armed criminal action for robbing the assistant manager of a fast-food restaurant at gunpoint. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
And then, because this apparently happens sometimes, he never actually made it to prison. There was a mistake that let him spend the next 13 years free, rather than behind bars, before authorities in Missouri realized that he was free and took him to prison. Now, nearly a year later, he is free again — but it’s on purpose this time.
Anderson’s story emerged last year in the St. Louis alt-weekly Riverfront Times. Jessica Lussenhop wrote about how Anderson — who lived just two blocks from the last address the court system had for him, who had registered his contracting business with the state, who was a churchgoer and a football coach and a husband and a father — was pulled from his home last July:
“Baby, I’m sorry,” he told [LaQonna, his wife]. “This is something from thirteen years ago. I thought that this was over.”
“This American Life” drew a lot of attention to the case with a report in February. (You can listen to the episode here and read the transcript here.) Anderson explained how, after his conviction, he was out on bail and filed a series of appeals that were rejected:
Lussenhop: It was the prosecutor who told the judge that Mike was in custody even though he wasn’t. He was at home. Mike’s attorney didn’t say anything because he hadn’t actually talked to Mike in a few days, and he thought maybe he really was back in prison– until he talked to Mike on the phone.
Mike Anderson: He was shocked. He said, you aren’t in jail? I said, no, I’m not. And so I was like, well, what are we supposed to do? Am I supposed to turn myself in? And it was just like, well, at this time, it’s a mistake. They’ll figure out their mistake. You know, he said, it’s temporary. Expect to be picked up. They’re going to pick you up.
They never did pick him up, though. Not until he was supposed to get out, anyway, as Lussenhop noted to “This American Life”:
Lussenhop: In the end, the only reason that the Missouri Department of Corrections realized Mike was missing was because they were preparing to release him from prison.
There was a considerably outcry after people noticed Anderson’s story, with more than 35,000 people signing an online petition calling for his release.
Judge Terry Lynn Brown in Mississippi County, Mo., said during a brief hearing Monday that Anderson would get credit for time served and be released immediately.
“You’ve been a good father,” Brown said, according to the Associated Press. “You’ve been a good husband. You’ve been a good taxpaying citizen of the state of Missouri. That leads me to believe that you are a good man and a changed man.”
Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general, said in a statement Monday that Anderson’s release “appears to appropriately balance the facts” of Anderson’s crime, the mistake made by authorities and Anderson’s clean record since his conviction.
Lussenhop shared this photo of Mike Anderson, finally home once again:
— Jessica Lussenhop (@Lussenpop) May 5, 2014