TODAY   |  April 15, 2014

Man may go to prison 13 years after sentencing

A Missouri man may learn today whether he will finally be sent behind bars 13 years after being sentenced for armed robbery. Due to an apparent clerical error, he never served his sentence. NBC’s Joe Fryer reports.

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>>> a missouri man should learn today if he'll have to keep fighting to get out of jail thanks to an apparent clerical error . he never served his prison sentence for armed robbery , but now years later after turning his life around, the state is trying to make him. here's nbc's joe fryer.

>> reporter: as mike anderson , a father of four sits behind bars, his wife says she struggles to eat and sleep.

>> it's just very hard. and i miss my husband very, very much, my kids miss their father.

>> reporter: she says she recently learned that before they met, anderson had been convicted, guilty of armed robbery , taking money from a burger king manager who was making a bank deposit in 1999 . anderson was sentenced to 13 years in jail, but during his appeals posted bond and went home.

>> he then waited and waited and waited for the missouri department of corrections and the courts to give him a date to surrender and to begin serving his sentence. that day never came.

>> reporter: for some reason, the state thought anderson was in prison when really he was leading a normal life .

>> he got married, had children, opened a successful business, coached youth football, joined a church group, did everything that you would expect a normal person to do, because in his mind, he believed that maybe the state courts had changed their mind.

>> reporter: then last summer when his sentence was supposed to end, authorities realized an apparent clerical error , anderson was never in jail. that's when law enforcement showed up at his front door and arrested him. from prison, anderson spoke with the radio program "this american life ."

>> i never felt like a fugitive because a fugitive's someone that's running from the law. i never ran from the law. i was there.

>> reporter: his attorney has filed a petition asking for anderson 's release. even that burger king manager thinks the state should set him free.

>> it's their fault, so i mean, it's like they're going to try and penalize him for another 13 years. that don't seem right.

>> reporter: but the current prosecutor disagrees.

>> i believe that if we allowed somebody to avoid an incarceration sentence, it's just a slippery slope .

>> reporter: missouri's attorney general declined to comment on the case, but must respond to anderson 's petition today. the legal system will now determine if anderson 's sentence is over, or just beginning. for "today," joe fryer, nbc news.