A Missouri man who was sent to jail after going unnoticed for 13 years by the judicial system before officials realized he’d never served his sentence, has been released.
Judge Terry Lynn Brown decided that Cornealious Anderson successfully turned his life around during the 13 years he should have been in jail. He will not serve any additional jail time.
Judge Brown praised Anderson for his behavior, saying, “You’ve been a good father. 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 and changed man,” NBC News reports.
The legal system is not flawless; there are times when sentences fall through the cracks and mistakes are made by law enforcement, but who is responsible for these errors? That’s exactly what Missouri man Cornealious “Mike” Anderson, 37, found out on May 6 when he was freed from jail and relieved of his former sentence.
Anderson was convicted of armed robbery of a Burger King manager in 2000, and spent 13 years awaiting his prison sentence. After being convicted, he was told to wait for instructions on when and where to report to surrender himself, but those instructions never came.
His case was nearly forgotten until July 2013 when a SWAT team arrived at his home one morning and took him to the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Mo. the Associated Press reported.
During that 13-year period, he paid taxes, opened and registered three small businesses and even paid traffic tickets and never once received any notice from the Missouri penal system regarding his conviction.
As the years passed, Anderson remained in the dark about his case. His attorney, Patrick Megaro, told the AP that Anderson believed law enforcement must have changed their minds or stopped caring about his case because over ten years had passed and neither he nor Megaro had any new information on what he was supposed to do.
So Anderson went on with his life. He stayed in the St. Louis area and got married, fathered four children, coached his son’s football team, joined and volunteered at a local church all without concealing his identity or hiding from police according to the New York Daily News.
Megaro said that Anderson went unnoticed for so long due to clerical errors. Once the Missouri Department of Corrections realized this, they took Anderson to jail despite the fact that the 13 years Anderson was supposed to spend in prison had already passed.
Anderson, his family and Megaro hoped he wouldn’t have to stay in jail since his 13-year sentence was technically up in 2013, but the Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a court response April 15 that the state was justified in making Anderson serve the sentence, according to the AP.
At first, it was unclear what would happen next with Anderson’s case. Koster said Megaro could re-file the case and target the director of the Department of Corrections, which could result in credit for time served as Anderson was supposed to be in jail and there had been other actions Koster and Gov. Jay Nixon could have taken toward Anderson’s case.
However, Megaro didn’t think the credit would apply since Anderson was never behind bars. Instead, he relied on case law, the AP said.
Megaro said he could use a case from 1912, the only other time a case like this occurred in Missouri, where the charged man was set free.
Anderson didn’t go unnoticed for long, this time for the better. The New York Daily News reported that an online petition on change.org was created in support of his freedom. As of April 21, the petition had more than 30,000 signatures.