April 15, 2014 at 8:52 AM ET
A Missouri man who avoided a 13-year jail sentence because of what state officials called a clerical error will learn Tuesday if he will have to keep fighting to avoid being incarcerated.
In 1999, Cornealious “Mike” Anderson was convicted of armed robbery after taking money from a Burger King manager who was making a bank deposit. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail, but after he posted bond and went home during the appeals process, he was never forced to serve his sentence.
"He then waited and waited and waited for the Missouri Department of Corrections to give him a date to surrender and begin his serving his sentence,’’ Anderson’s attorney, Patrick Michael Megaro, told TODAY. “That day never came."
The state mistakenly believed Anderson was already in prison serving his sentence, when in fact he was living life on the outside.
"He got married, had children, opened a successful business, coached youth football, (and) joined a church group,’’ Magaro said in a report from NBC's Joe Fryer. “Did everything that you would expect a normal person to do because in his mind, he believed that maybe the courts had changed their mind."
However, just as his sentence would have ended last summer, authorities realized the apparent clerical error — and that Anderson had never served time. The father of four was arrested and currently sits behind bars, waiting for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to respond on Tuesday to a petition from his attorney asking for his release. Koster declined comment to TODAY.
“It’s just very hard,’’ said Anderson’s wife, LaQonna Anderson. “And I miss my husband very, very much. My kids miss their father.”
Anderson spoke with the radio program “This American Life” about his predicament.
“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 manager who was robbed believes that Anderson should be set free.
“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."
Nearly 14,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org asking for Anderson’s release, but the current St. Charles County prosecutor disagrees.
"I believe that if we allowed somebody to avoid an incarceration sentence, it's just a slippery slope,’’ Tim Lohmar told TODAY.