Cornealious “Mike" Anderson has to be one of the luckiest -- and unluckiest -- men in Missouri.
Lucky: First, he was a felon who walked free when he should have been in prison.
Unlucky: Then, he became an innocent man who was arrested and charged with a crime he didn't commit.
On Thursday, Missouri officials admitted they made another mistake and cleared Anderson. But he knows how close he came to losing everything.
Anderson, a resident of suburban St. Louis, made national headlines last year when it was revealed that Missouri officials forgot to tell him to report to prison to serve a 13-year sentence for the 1999 robbery of a fast-food restaurant.
That was in 2000. Anderson didn't hide. He became a hard-working contractor with a wife and four children, and he lived in peace -- until officials realized their mistake and arrested him in July 2013. After a public outcry asking law enforcement officials to let bygones be bygones -- and a feature on the radio show "This American Life" -- a judge credited Anderson with time served and set him free in May 2014.
A few months later, however, the feel-good story turned ugly. St. Louis police arrested Anderson on Nov. 16, alleging that he had snatched a woman's purse. An officer had spotted him walking down the street nearby and brought him to the crime scene.
Two witnesses -- including the victim -- said Anderson was the perpetrator, and he was charged with second-degree robbery.
But on Thursday, in a bizarre turn of events, a St. Louis city prosecutor announced that Anderson had been wrongly identified and wrongly implicated in the crime.
The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office made the announcement after gathering surveillance footage and interviewing more witnesses about the case. Anderson's attorney had said he wasn't wearing the same type of clothes as the robber and wasn't found with the purse or any of its contents.
“The exhaustive and expeditious review unearthed additional information that cast serious doubt on the case against Mr. Anderson. On behalf of the Circuit Attorney’s Office, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Anderson and thank him, his defense attorney and area businesses for their cooperation in assisting us in getting to the truth of this matter,” Circuit Atty. Jennifer Joyce said in a statement, which she issued "to clear his name of the recent accusations against him.”
Joyce added, “We will use every legal tool available to ensure that the correct person is charged with the correct crime." Her office said it would not provide more information because the investigation was ongoing.
In a brief telephone interview Thursday, Anderson did not sound overjoyed, just tired. "I’m sorry if I have little to say," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I should be happy, but I’m upset, embarrassed."
Anderson said he was thankful for his faith in God and for his friends and family. "If it wasn’t for the friends and family I have, I still could have been in jail. I could have lost my wife and kids, I could have lost my house.”
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