Cornealious “Mike” Anderson has been freed from prison after spending nearly a year behind bars.
Anderson, 36, was sentenced to do time for his part in the robbery of a fast-food restaurant manager. Though he never tried to change his identity or conceal his whereabouts, and even asked about his sentence, the order to go to prison never came.
“Day by day, month by month, year by year, time passed, and they never picked me up,” he said in an interview last month with The Associated Press.
In the mean time, the St. Louis, Missouri man lived his life, marrying, divorcing and marrying again, raising his children, and operating his own construction businesses.
The mistake was the result of a trial clerk failing to tell the Missouri Supreme Court that Anderson was free on bond after his conviction in 2000. When the mistake was discovered last July, a SWAT team entered his home to take him to prison.
A Change.org petition to release Anderson garnered over 35,000 signatures.
Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement that he had proposed letting Anderson out of prison as a solution that “balances the seriousness of Mr. Anderson’s crime with the mistake made by the criminal justice system.”
At the hearing Monday, Anderson’s attorney, Patrick Megaro, pointed out how his client had managed to turn his life around.
“He has been able to accomplish for himself what the criminal justice system does not accomplish in many situations,” Megaro told the judge.
Mississippi County Associate Circuit Judge Terry Lynn Brown made his decision to release Anderson, with credit for the 13 years he was supposed to serve going towards parole, in just ten minutes.
“You’ve been a good father,” 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.”
And so Anderson got to go home to his family.
“Very happy,” Anderson said as he got into his family’s SUV to go home. “My faith has always been in God. I’m just so thankful. That God for everybody.”