TODAY

TODAY   |  May 01, 2014

Man who avoided prison 13 years: ‘Prison is not me’

Mike Anderson, who never served an armed robbery sentence because of botched paperwork, speaks out after finally being sent to prison. NBC's national correspondent Kate Snow reports.

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>>> with a story that's sparking a big debate. for 13 years officials in missouri thought mike anderson was serving a sentence for armed robbery . but due to paperwork errors he never actually went to prison. instead, anderson built a new life and one he is now fighting to preserve. nbc national correspondent kate snow talked to him exclusively at a maximum security prison . kate, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. last summer when the missouri state prison system went to release mike anderson is when they realized their mistake. they sent him then to the maximum security prison to finally serve out his 13 years. this is where mike anderson lives now. 22 hours a day in a cell.

>> it is like my life is wasting away.

>> reporter: anderson admits that on a summer night in 1999 , he and a buddy were drinking and robbed aburg he king employee making a night deposit using what looked like a gun. anderson was sentenced to 13 years but then was released on bond while he appealed. on his last appeal he listed his home address but in court the prosecutor says something else.

>> that's when the prosecuting attorney hopped up and said no, my office checked, mr. anderson is currently incarcerated with the department of corrections .

>> the prosecutor thought you were already in jail.

>> yeah.

>> and you weren't.

>> i wasn't, no.

>> reporter: now he faced a choice. he says his lawyer told him that the state would realize the error eventually.

>> did you think about turning yourself in?

>> the thought crossed my mind but once someone tells you, you know, it's not your job to turn yourself in, it's their job to come and get you, it's like, hey, well, i'm going to enjoy every moment that i can.

>> did you wake up every day thinking this might be the day ?

>> for the first couple years, yes. yes, i did. when i'm in the shower i hear a noise outside, somebody closing the door, i'm thinking it's them at the door. every single day.

>> so why not turn yourself in to avoid that?

>> this isn't me. prison is not me. i couldn't do it.

>> reporter: anderson says he was determined to prove he never belonged in jail. he became a master carpenter, started a contracting business.

>> i became a man. i grew into the man that i was supposed to be.

>> reporter: he built a family with his wife. loved helping the kids with their spelling homework.

>> i make them spell every word five times and then use it in a sentence. at home. they're like we don't even do this at school. i'm like i don't care. you're going to do it here.

>> reporter: anderson says he rehabilitated himself but the state still thinks he owes them 13 years.

>> this is a highly unusual case.

>> reporter: michael wolf , a former supreme court justice .

>> the state still takes the position. we have a judgment. we are entitled to have this guy serve a sentence. how long a sentence, that's the question.

>> reporter: the missouri attorney general 's office wrote in court filings that mike anderson "took advantage of a situation he could have easily corrected." why should you not have to serve out 13 years?

>> i shouldn't have to serve it out now because i feel the last 14 years of my life speak for itself. it shows that i'm not that person who they said i was. i wouldn't have turned out to be the man that i am now.

>> reporter: he misses his kids.

>> i worry about them every day. yes.sadness in your eyes. i'm trying not to show it.

>> what's behind that?

>> my kids. the love for my family.

>> by has faith that he will go home.

>> reporter: every time i wake up, every time my name is called, every time the door opens i'm believing that it's my day.

>> on monday a court is set to hear anderson 's case in missouri. in court filings the missouri attorney general actually suggested legal paths that could lead to freedom for anderson . the attorney general told us in a statement his goal was to suggest a way for the court to balance three things -- the seriousness of the crime, the clerical error made and anderson 's conduct in all these years since that crime.

>> it is a fascinating dilemma. i'm sure people will be weighing in with strong opinions on both sides of this issue. carson is offense in the orange room with more on this.

>> we want to let people weigh in. we have our survey up at today.com or should mike anderson still serve his sentence. vote yes he should have to serve the time he was sentenced to, or no, he's rehabilitated his life 57bd should not have to serve his time. weigh in.

>> kate, thank you.

>>