'The system failed': Man who never served 13-year sentence asks for clemency

by Scott Stump /  / Updated 

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The attorney for the Missouri man behind bars after a clerical error kept him from serving a 13-year sentence for armed robbery has petitioned Governor Jay Nixon for clemency. 

Cornealious "Mike" Anderson was sentenced in 2002 in prison to 13 years for the 1999 armed robbery of an assistant Burger King manager who was making a bank deposit. However, after Anderson posted bond and returned home during the appeals process, the state said it made a clerical error — and Anderson never went to prison. 

So he lived life as a free man, getting married, having four kids and becoming a carpenter.

When the mistake was discovered in July of last year, Anderson was picked up by law enforcement and has been jailed ever since. 

"The system failed,'' Anderson told TODAY in a phone interview from jail late Thursday. "They did say I was incarcerated, and I wasn't. And for them to say that, I've been in their computer at Fulton for 13 years. So that means I've been there for 13 years."

"My client is a beloved father of four beautiful young children, a husband to a devoted wife, and a well-respected small business man in St. Louis," Anderson's lawyer, Patrick Michael Megaro, wrote in the petition to Nixon. "In the past 13 years, he has committed himself to being a productive and valuable member of society, and has proven that not only is he no danger to the community, but is a pillar of the community."

Anderson, here with his wife, LaQonna, has said he never ran from the law.
Anderson, here with his wife, LaQonna, has said he never ran from the law.Today

Anderson's incarceration has taken a toll on his family. 

"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.”

In December, Megaro filed a writ of habeas corpus on Anderson's behalf, arguing that incarcerating him now constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. On Tuesday, Missouri attorney general Chris Koster responded, claiming Anderson "took advantage" of the situation in hopes the court would not find out and that he is at fault for not turning himself in. Koster advised that the judge hearing the case should deny his release. Megaro answered Koster's claims in the petition filed on Thursday. 

"The conditions of the bond imposed no duty whatsoever upon Petitioner other than to return to court when ordered to do so, and stay out of trouble,'' Megaro wrote. "He fully satisfied the conditions of his bond. The record conclusively establishes by incontrovertible documentary evidence that Cornealious Michael Anderson III never hid the fact he was out on bail."

Nixon has the power to grant clemency or commute Anderson's sentence, but it would be a rare occurrence. Nixon has only invoked that power once during his tenure, which began in 2009. 

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