Cornealious "Mike" Anderson spent 13 years free from prison due to a clerical error, then nearly a year behind bars when the mistake was caught. On Monday, he walked out of a southeast Missouri courtroom a free man again — this time with no need to look over his shoulder.
Mississippi County Associate Circuit Judge Terry Lynn Brown needed just a 10-minute hearing before ruling that he was giving Anderson credit for time served for all 4,794 days between his conviction and when he was arrested last year. The judge granted Anderson his immediate freedom.
Anderson, 37, left the courthouse with his wife and 3-year-old daughter on one arm, his grandmother on the other, tears in all of their eyes.
"Very happy," Anderson said as he climbed into a sport utility vehicle for the ride home to suburban St. Louis and a planned family celebration. "My faith has always been in God."
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 for orders that would specify when and where he was to report to prison. But the orders never came. He never tried to conceal his whereabouts or identity.
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. He was arrested.
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, Mo.
At the hearing Monday, Anderson's attorney, Patrick Megaro, said Anderson remained out of prison through no fault of his own, and in the intervening years, turned his life around.
Brown agreed. The judge pointed out that Anderson's crime was serious, but acknowledged that he's a far different man now than he was then. "That leads me to believe that you are a good man and a changed man," he said.