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Associated Press
Cornealious “Mike” Anderson walks out of the Mississippi County Courthouse with his wife, LaQonna Anderson, and daughter, Nevaeh, 3.

Missouri man goes free

No clerical error this time; judge hails ‘changed man’

– Cornealious “Mike” Anderson spent 13 years free from prison because of 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. I’m just so thankful. I just thank God for everybody.”

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.

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.

“He has been able to accomplish for himself what the criminal justice system does not accomplish in many situations,” Megaro told the judge.

Brown agreed. He pointed out that Anderson’s crime was serious, but acknowledged that he’s a far different man now than he was then.

“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.”

As the judge announced his decision, about 10 of Anderson’s relatives broke out in sobs and cried. Some hugged and thanked God.

In July 2013, 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 had remained behind bars until Monday.

“Go home to your family, Mr. Anderson,” Brown said after his ruling.

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