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Missouri judge frees Cornealious 'Mike' Anderson in delayed imprisonment case


CHARLESTON, Mo. (AP) -- A Missouri judge ordered the state on Monday to set free a man who was convicted of robbery in 2000 but was never sent to prison until a clerical mistake was discovered last year.

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

In the years since his conviction, Anderson started his own construction-related businesses, married and had children. He also coached youth football and volunteered at his church in Webster Groves, Missouri.

Judge Terry Lynn Brown lauded Anderson's "exemplary" behavior during his 13 years of freedom before the arrest. "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 man and a changed man."

As the judge announced his decision, about 10 of Anderson's relatives broke out in sobs and cried. Anderson stared straight ahead but dabbed tears from his eyes. Afterward, he hugged his toddler daughter tight. The hearing lasted about 10 minutes.

Anderson walked out of the courtroom with his wife and 3-year-old daughter on one arm and his mom on the other. Before being driven away to a freedom celebration at an undisclosed spot, Anderson told reporters he was "very happy. My faith has always been in God. I'm just so thankful. Thank God for everything."

Missouri assistant Attorney General Michael Spillane told Brown the court should consider the seriousness of Anderson's crime, "but also Anderson's behavior over the 13 years of his freedom and the impact that imprisonment would have on his family."

The judge said rather than Anderson being granted parole, he would get credit for the 4,794 days between when he was convicted and when he was arrested last year.

Anderson's plight drew international headlines last month. An online petition on change.org includes more than 35,000 signatures urging the state to set him free. Even Attorney General Chris Koster seemed inclined to find a solution to resolve what he called a "difficult situation."

Anderson, 37, had never been convicted of a serious crime before the robbery. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the holdup, then told to wait for orders that would specify when and where he was to report to prison. But the orders never came. Anderson suspected that his case had been overlooked and asked his former attorney what to do.

"Day by day, month by month, year by year, time passed, and they never picked me up," he said in the interview with AP.

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.

In July, Anderson's sentence was supposed to end. It was then that someone at the Missouri Department of Corrections realized he had never been put behind bars. Eight U.S. marshals arrived one morning at his home in a middle-class neighborhood and took him away. He was in prison by noon that day, and has remained behind bars ever since.

Koster said last month that his goal was to suggest a way for the court to balance the seriousness of Anderson's crime with the clerical error made by the justice system and Anderson's conduct since the robbery.

"All three factors deserve recognition in resolving this difficult situation," Koster said.

Anderson's attorneys filed an appeal in February calling his imprisonment unfair and unjust. They had also asked Gov. Jay Nixon to commute the sentence or grant clemency.

Join the discussion

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Barbara May 05 2014 at 8:21 PM

13 years of hell. Mike I wish you the very best !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Write a bood and make a million.

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tschreiberpa May 05 2014 at 7:24 PM

It's good to see the system behave in a sensible fashion.

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Lori May 05 2014 at 7:16 PM

I believe this was the right decision. The man is reformed and leads an honest and good life.

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robert_nicholssr May 05 2014 at 7:16 PM

But was never sent to prison until a clerical mistake was discovered last year. Sound like the US Army and the state of Missouri are run by the same people. Years ago an Army Sergeant was to go to Vietnam. Home on leave, he was ordered to stay there until new orders are sent. Two (2) years later still at home and calling his old commander and others and again and again was told to stay there until new orders are sent. He gat a job started a family while waiting. After two years the Army MP showed up to arrest him for being AWOL. After He showed the Army the records of repeat trying to find out what was going on. The Army did said it was their mistake not his and let him go free. And other one for the good guy.

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risi3950 May 05 2014 at 7:12 PM

The purpose of jail is to pay for you crime and hopefully change your ways. Unfortunately most come out of jail more jaded than when they went in. He paid his dues by the days, months, and years that this hung over his head. He changed his ways and became a better man. The judge made the right decision. Best of luck in the future and continue to show your children the good man you have become.

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redsox1martin May 05 2014 at 7:03 PM

Most states you get sentenced you go that day or sit in jail till the bus picks you up. Not hey we will let you know when we are ready for you.

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fpi1712 May 05 2014 at 6:57 PM

the victim said he should be set free, so nuff said. there are still some decent judges in America who believe in second chances and most of all justice. there is a difference between the law and justice. this man had a cloud over his head for 13 years wondering what was going to happen. he notified the authorities and he changed his life for the good. AMEN AMEN AMEN


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BANDIT BILL May 05 2014 at 6:55 PM

It's an Obamanation I say!!

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cact25 May 05 2014 at 6:51 PM

He got lucky.

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Roberta May 05 2014 at 6:50 PM

The judge did right.

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