Lawyer of man who never served 13-year sentence: This is going 'to the mat'
The Missouri attorney general has asked for a judge to deny a request for release by a man who was jailed after it was discovered that he never served a 13-year prison sentence.
On Tuesday, Chris Koster filed a response to a plea by the attorney of Cornealious "Mike" Anderson, arguing that the judge hearing the case should deny Anderson's request to be released from jail in Mississippi County. In 2000, Anderson was convicted of a 1999 armed robbery of a Burger King manager making a bank deposit and sentenced to 13 years in prison. But because of what the state has labeled a clerical error, he never served.
Anderson since became a married father of four, a businessman and a youth football coach, but was taken into custody nine months ago when the error was discovered.
"It’s just very hard,’’ Anderson’s wife, LaQonna Anderson, told NBC's Joe Fryer on TODAY Tuesday. “And I miss my husband very, very much. My kids miss their father.”
Anderson's attorney, Patrick Michael Megaro, told TODAY.com on Wednesday that he was not surprised by Koster's response and that he plans to file a reply and request a court hearing as soon as possible. More than 21,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org asking for Anderson’s release.
"I don't know if it's even possible yet, but I'm going to try to find some alternative solution that will still achieve the same goal and allow the state to save face and make this more palatable for everyone to accept because in the end, nobody to wants to let a guilty man go,'' Megaro said. "The man was found guilty by a jury, and he lost his appeals. Nobody wants to just let him go scot-free unless there's a legal mechanism where they can save face.
"I don't know if that's possible. My instinct tells me that this is probably going to go to the mat, so to speak, and the judge is going to have to make some sort of decision on the merits."
Megaro filed a writ of habeas corpus — a court order to bring a person in custody before a judge or into court — in December. In Koster's response on Tuesday, he noted that the St. Charles County Court did not notify the Missouri Supreme Court that Anderson was issued a bond and released during the appeals process. Koster's reply claims that Anderson "took advantage" of the situation in hopes the court would not find out.
"This position is fundamentally flawed for a couple of reasons,'' Megaro said. "Number one, it was the state that consented to his bail pending appeal, so they actually knew before he had even filed an appeal that he was out on bond pending appeal by virtue of the fact that they were contacted by his attorney.
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"The other problem with their position, especially saying that Mike Anderson never informed the court, is that there is incontrovertible documentary evidence that Mike Anderson informed the court that he was out on bail even after his appeal was denied."
On Aug. 15, 1999, Anderson and a cousin robbed an assistant manager of a Burger King in St. Charles, Mo., in which they showed what turned out to be a BB gun and took a bag of cash that was intended for a deposit box. The Missouri Supreme Court denied Anderson's appeal on May 28, 2002. Anderson filed a motion for a secondary appeal on Sept. 11, 2002, in which he noted he was not in jail, according to Megaro.
"He signed the petition at the end and specifically said on the first page, 'I am not in custody, I am out on bond,' and even gave his home address at the end of the petition where he could be found,'' Megaro said. "He has never hidden the fact that he was out on bail. Not only has he not hidden the fact, he has broadcasted it three separate times."
Anderson spoke with the radio program “This American Life” in February.
“I never felt like a fugitive, because a fugitive's someone that's running from the law,’’ he said. “I never ran from the law. I was there."
The assistant manager who was robbed by Anderson and his cousin also spoke with the radio program, saying Anderson should not have to serve his sentence.
“It's their fault, so I mean it's like they're going to try and penalize him for another 13 years,’’ said the man, identified only by his first name, Dennis, on the radio program. “That don't seem right."
In his response, Koster cited a case in Missouri involving an inmate who was released on bond erroneously and then re-arrested after the mistake was discovered. A trial court ruled that he should get credit toward his jail sentence for the time that he had been free. Megaro believes that ruling won't help Anderson get released because Anderson was not jailed and then erroneously released.
In his request for Anderson's release, Megaro cited a ruling from 1912, which he said was the last time a similar situation occurred in Missouri. That man was set free, according to Megaro. Anderson's sentence also could be commuted by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.