Cornealious ‘Mike’ Anderson III, 36, avoided a prison sentence because of a Missouri Department of Corrections clerical error. Now, 13 years later, he has been sent to prison to complete his sentence and is fighting to be released.
In 1999, Anderson was arrested with another man for robbing a Burger King store manager with a BB gun while he attempted to make a deposit in the night-deposit box.
Out on bail, Anderson filed numerous appeals between 2000 and 2004 but they were unsuccessful. He should have had his bail revoked at that time and been sent to jail to complete the 13 year sentence he was given.
But Anderson was never taken into custody, and as time passed, he built a life in the same neighborhood where the crime was committed; he registered a business with the Secretary of State, married, and started a family.
Dean Reynolds of CBS News asked Anderson in an interview, "What did you think would happen as the days and weeks and months and years went by?"
"I had this sense in me that everything was OK, no matter what was gonna happen, that everything was gonna be OK, and, to this day, I still have that,” Anderson said.
Everything Anderson did post-conviction and appeals was by the book, and the State of Missouri never realized he was supposed to be serving a prison sentence.
Anderson has been told this was due to a clerical error.
Amazingly, Anderson even filed a post-conviction appeal that clearly stated ‘Movant is not presently incarcerated,’ reports the Daily Mail. The filing included Anderson’s address as being in Webster Groves, while his co-accused, Laron Harris, who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years, had his address listed as the Missouri Department of Corrections.
For seven years after his last appeal Anderson remained a free man, until July 2013 when the Missouri Department of Corrections went to release him from prison and realized he was never there.
A SWAT team arrived at Anderson’s home last July and swarmed the house. Anderson, now a father of four and with his youngest daughter sleeping in her crib, was arrested. He has been in prison ever since.
While Tim Lohmar -- the current prosecutor for St. Charles County, where the crime was committed -- admits a huge error was made, he is behind the decision to send Anderson to prison.
“The jury heard the evidence, the judge upheld the sentence,” Lohmar said. “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.”
Anderson is fighting to be released, and his attorney, Patrick Michael Megaro, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the warden of Southeast Correctional facility, challenging the state’s right to hold Anderson.
The petition 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, and clemency not given by Governor Nixon, Anderson will be released from prison in 2026, when he is 50 years old.
The victim of the crime, using the name Dennis, contacted the Riverfront Times in an email with the subject line, “man that robbed the burger king man.” In his email he showed signs of anger towards Anderson and Harris but in a conversation his outlook on the case had changed.
"I think what really pissed me off is how our government dropped the ball. They didn't do what they were supposed to do. They were supposed to make sure he went to jail," Dennis says. "[Mike] 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."
Dennis does not wish to meet Anderson but he did say he is willing to file a letter with the courts stating they should let Anderson go home.