NationNation Now

Missouri judge sets free 'good' man who skipped prison sentence

CrimeTheftJustice System
Cornealious 'Mike' Anderson raised a family and worked instead of serving 13-year sentence for robbery.
Judge gives him credit for 4,794 days Anderson lived outside prison
'My faith has always been in God. I'm just so thankful. I just thank God for everybody,' Anderson says

Cornealious “Mike" Anderson was sentenced to serve 13 years behind bars for a conviction in a 1999 armed robbery. But Missouri made a mistake and never actually told him to report to prison--so he went on with his life as a hard-working contractor, raising a family, including four children.

Last July, the state noticed that Anderson had never served his time and sent officers to arrest him. On Monday, Mississippi County Associate Circuit Judge Terry Lynn Brown took just 10 minutes to rule that he was giving Anderson credit for time served -- for all 4,794 days between his conviction and when he was arrested.

The judge granted Anderson, now 37, immediate freedom.  He left the courtroom with his wife and 3-year-old daughter on one arm and his grandmother on the other. 

“Very happy,” Anderson said as he climbed into a sport utility vehicle for the ride home to suburban St. Louis. “My faith has always been in God. I'm just so thankful. I just thank God for everybody.”

Anderson’s story emerged last year in the St. Louis alternative weekly Riverfront Times in which Jessica Lussenhop wrote about how Anderson was taken into custody. He made no attempt to hide himself, living just two blocks from the last address the court system had for him. He registered his contracting business with the state, attended church and was a football coach, husband and a father.

The story went viral, including a radio piece on “This American Life.” An online petition on drew more than 35,000 signatures urging the state to set him free.

Anderson was 23 when he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in the robbery of an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant. He told the Associated Press last month that he waited, and even asked about going to prison, but the order never came.

At the hearing Monday, Anderson's attorney, Patrick Megaro, said his client remained out of prison through no fault of his own.

“He has been able to accomplish for himself what the criminal justice system does not accomplish in many situations,” Megaro told the judge.

“You've been a good father,” Judge Brown said. “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.”

As the judge announced his decision, about 10 of Anderson's relatives broke out in sobs and cried. Some hugged and thanked God.

“Go home to your family, Mr. Anderson,” Brown said after his ruling.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times