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'Clerical error' allowed convicted Cornealious 'Mike' Anderson to walk free

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  • Cornealious 'Mike' Anderson was sentenced to 13 years prison in 2000 for armed robbery
  • He got bail and appealed the sentence unsuccessfully several times
  • He should have been re-arrested and jailed following his last failed appeal but he never was
  • Over the last 13 years Anderson reformed, becoming a master carpenter, business owner, husband, and father of four
  • He was arrested in front of children at home after the Missouri Department of Corrections went to release him from prison and realized he wasn't there
  • Now the state wants him to serve the original sentence, meaning he'll be 50 and his children grown by the time he is released
  • The victim of his crime says he doesn't want Anderson to be locked up
  • He is now nine months into his sentence

By Alex Greig

Published: 16:26 EST, 11 April 2014 | Updated: 18:13 EST, 11 April 2014

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The Missouri Department of Corrections discovered, upon preparing to release a prisoner who had served a 13-year sentence in July 2013, that the prisoner had never been incarcerated and promptly sent him to prison.

In the intervening 13 years since his 1999 arrest, Cornealious 'Mike' Anderson III, 36, has transformed his life, becoming a master carpenter, starting his own business and marrying and having children.

In July last year, as he and his youngest daughter slept in the St Louis home he built for his family, a SWAT team outfitted in tactical gear and helmets swarmed the house, arresting the terrified father of four and delivering him to the Missouri Department of Corrections, where he's been ever since.

13 years late: Mike Anderson is currently nine months into a 13-year prison sentence for a crime committed in 1999

13 years late: Mike Anderson is currently nine months into a 13-year prison sentence for a crime committed in 1999

Now, Anderson is fighting to be released from prison, where he's nine months into the original 13-year sentence.

The Riverfront Times reports that it appears some kind of clerical error is responsible for Anderson's predicament.

In 1999, Anderson and another man robbed a Burger King store manager of the day's takings as he attempted to deposit the cash in a night-deposit box.

The pair used a BB gun and Anderson was arrested two months later after witnesses gave police his car license plate number.

Between 2000 and 2004, Anderson filed a series of appeals which were ultimately unsuccessful. At that point, his bail should have been revoked and he should have been taken into custody - but he never was.

Family man: Anderson with his wife LaQonna and their four children. In the years since his arrest he has built a business and a loving family life

Family man: Anderson with his wife LaQonna and their four children. In the years since his arrest he has built a business and a loving family life

As the weeks and months passed by, Anderson never attempted to hide: he registered a business, Anderson Construction and Investment, to his home address and married his wife, LaQonna Anderson. He coached his son's football team and volunteered at his local church.

He even filed a post-conviction appeal that clearly stated 'Movant is not presently incarcerated.' His co-accused, Laron Harris, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years. In filings, Anderson's address is clearly stated as Webster Groves, whereas the listing for Harris is the Missouri Department of Corrections.

No one commented on this discrepancy and Anderson remained free for seven years after his final appeal failed in 2005.

Tim Lohmar, the current prosecutor for St. Charles County, where the armed robbery occurred, is baffled at the error.

'Somebody messed up. Somebody messed up big time,' he told CBS News.

As to whether Anderson deserves to be free, he said, 'The jury heard the evidence, the judge upheld the sentence,' he says. 'As unfair as it may seem to he and his family, he's got 13 years he owes the state. I don't think there's much more to say than that.'

Model citizen: After his scrape with the law, Anderson became a master carpenter, married, and built his family a home from the ground up

Model citizen: After his scrape with the law, Anderson became a master carpenter, married, and built his family a home from the ground up

Anderson's father, Cornealious Michael Anderson II, said that his son went through a rebellious phase as a young man, but has completely redeemed himself. He had no prior convictions at the time of the crime, and held a full-time job at AT&T.

'If the point of incarceration is rehabilitation, the job's already done,' he told the Riverfront Times.

Anderson's attorney Patrick Michael Megaro has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the warden of Southeast Correctional facility where Anderson is being held, challenging the state's right to hold Anderson.

It argues that forcing Anderson to serve his sentence 13 years after it was given is a violation of due process, and that taking him away from his family, work and home constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

'Petitioner was left alone by the State of Missouri for 13 years and led to believe that the State had given up on execution of the judgment. To require this man to now begin serving a sentence in 2013 that should have been completed in 2013 is in essence to double his sentence,' reads the petition.

If the petition is rejected, Megaro plans to appeal.

Frank Bowman, professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, said that if all else fails, Anderson's only other recourse would be clemency.

'Say, "Hey, governor, can you pardon him or commute his sentence in light of this error on the part of the state? This person has taken advantage of this great chance, has kept his nose clean and become a great citizen. After all, you have budgetary problems. What good is it going to do to stick this family man inside and pay for his room and board?"'

Abrupt end: Anderson and his wife LaQonna, a hotel manager, who way away on business at the time of his arrest

Abrupt end: Anderson and his wife LaQonna, a hotel manager, who way away on business at the time of his arrest

However, Governor Nixon has only granted one prisoner clemency since he took office in 2009. By contrast, the governor of Illinois has granted 900 during the same period.

If Anderson is forced to serve out his original sentence, he will be 50 by the time he is released. His business will have failed, his children will be grown up, and his wife will have had to raise them by herself.

The victim of his crime contacted the Riverfront Times after reading about Anderson's plight.

Known only as Dennis, he says he doesn't believe Anderson should go to jail.

'[The state] were supposed to make sure he went to jail,' he said. '[Anderson] screwed up and he was supposed to pay for it. Our government screwed up. Who's paying for that? Does he have to pay for that again? Doesn't seem right.'

Anderson says he feels guilty for the crime he committed, but believes his time would be better spent being a productive member of the community.

'Yes, I feel responsible. I could have stopped it,' Anderson says of the robbery. 'A year or two in jail, yeah, I would have done that. I knew that I was there. I knew that something could have been done, but I ran. I was scared. But 13 years for that? There are guys in here on attempted murder; they've been here for ten years, for taking a life.'

The court has issued an order for Missouri’s attorney general to respond to Megaro's petition by April 15.

Megaro has started a online petition on behalf of Anderson to lobby Attorney General of the State of Missouri and Mississippi County Judge T. Lynn Brown to release him from prison.

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