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Cornealious Michael Anderson III, Freed from Prison, Reunites with Family

jorden_happy_mike_anderson.jpg
Jessica Lussenhop
Here is what a kid's face looks like moments after realizing his dad is home from prison (Mike Anderson at left).

Yesterday morning, Cornealious Michael Anderson III woke up in a prison cell at the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Missouri. He said corrections officers threw him in "the hole," or solitary confinement -- he wasn't sure why. He didn't get breakfast.

Fast-forward several hours, and Anderson was at home with his wife and young children in Webster Groves, eating a meal of fried chicken and steak with all the trimmings. He struggled to remember how to use his smartphone.

"It feels like a dream," he said, over and over.

Thumbnail image for cornealious_anderson_mike_change_petition.jpg
Courtesy Patrick Megaro

Here's our original breaking story on Anderson -- click through to page 2 for a full chronology.

Anderson was convicted of armed robbery in 2000, but he never served his thirteen-year sentence: A clerical error made by someone in the Missouri criminal-justice system prevented a warrant from ever being issued for Anderson. In the ensuing years he turned his life around, marrying his wife, LaQonna, having children and starting a contracting business. During that time he didn't commit any other crimes.

In July 2013, when the Missouri Department of Corrections was preparing to release Anderson, someone -- it has never been clear who -- realized the state never had him. A team of U.S. Marshals arrested Anderson at his home and upended the family's lives.

Yesterday was the first time a judge weighed in on the case. The Honorable Terry Lynn Brown received briefs from Anderson's attorney, Patrick Michael Megaro, arguing that incarcerating Anderson now is cruel and unusual punishment, as well a counter-argument from Attorney General Chris Koster, who wrote that Anderson used the clerical error to his advantage and was in part responsible for his tardy incarceration. Brown also received a suit filed by Megaro against Missouri Department of Corrections director George Lombardi, asking that the time Anderson was out improperly be counted as time served. This latter motion was what Brown took up in his court yesterday.

Anderson's wife, LaQonna, sat in the front row cradling their three-year-old daughter in her arms, surrounded by his parents, siblings and grandparents.

Megaro presented arguments first, then pleaded Anderson be returned home.

"My client has been his own parole officer for the past fourteen years. He's been able to accomplish on his own what the criminal-justice system often cannot accomplish on its own," Megaro said.

The attorney for the Department of Corrections, surprisingly, barely objected and asked the judge to consider Anderson's good behavior over the past fourteen years.

"Mr. Anderson," began Judge Brown. "In my 24 years on the bench I thought I'd seen everything. And then your case came along, and here we are. So I was wrong."

It didn't take long for everyone in the courtroom to tell that Brown was on Anderson's side.

mississippi_county_court.jpg
Google Street View
The courthouse where Anderson received his freedom.

"You're a good man, and you're a changed man, and that makes a huge difference in my decision today.... You're not the man you were fourteen years ago," said Brown. "I believe that continuing to [incarcerate you] serves no purpose" -- here there were gasps and tears from the Anderson family -- "I think it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. I think it would unnecessarily punish an obviously rehabilitated man."

Brown then declared Anderson would receive credit for time served starting on the day he was released on bond to the day he was arrested in 2013, thereby satisfying his full sentence. Brown's alternative was to credit Anderson from the day in 2002 when his final appeal failed -- a credit of only 11.5 years that would have left Anderson's fate in the hands of a parole board.

"I don't like uncertainty," the judge told the courtroom. "As such your sentence will be fully served and satisfied today.... Go home to your family, Mr. Anderson, and continue to be a good father, a good husband, a good taxpayer.... Good luck to you."

anderson_leave_court.jpg
RFT
The Andersons leave the courtroom.

The Anderson family broke into clapping and tears, and Mike disappeared in the back room of the courtroom only to emerge minutes later with a huge cardboard box of his belongings. He took LaQonna's hand, and the whole family walked out of the courthouse and into a waiting SUV, where they were mobbed by reporters and camera crews, before speeding off toward St. Louis.

Hours later, Anderson hid in his kitchen in Webster Groves waiting for his two young sons to come around the corner. They'd been pulled from school in the middle of the day, but they didn't know why -- although the mob of reporters on their front lawn might have been a clue.

mike_anderson_reunion.jpg
Jessica Lussenhop

"Daddy!" yelled seven-year-old Jorden after a moment of incredulity.

Twelve-year-old JerQon just smiled silently and hugged Mike. Nine months after their father was whisked away from this very same kitchen in handcuffs, the boys, their youngest sister, Nevaeh, and their mom have him back.

"It feels good to have him home," said LaQonna, "the kids calling his name instead of mine. It just -- it feels really good."

Initially, Jorden seemed more preoccupied with blowing up balloons, JerQon was shy, and Nevaeh would only comment on how she didn't like how long her dad's hair was, but as the commotion died down, a sense of normalcy seemed to descend upon the house.

"I was treated with love from those guys," said Anderson of his cellmates and even the corrections officers he met behind bars. "As soon as they saw me on TV they flocked to me."

He said that even on the ride to the courthouse that morning, the two officers who drove him expressed anger that -- while they were making $29,000 a year -- Anderson's incarceration would have cost an estimated $20,000 a year.

"'There is no such thing as rehabilitation,'" Anderson quoted the officers saying, as he stood over a plate of fried chicken.

mike_anderson_eating.jpg
Jessica Lussenhop

On Monday evening, the whole family boarded a plane -- along with a freshly shorn Mike Anderson -- for New York City, to do a series of network television appearances starting with the Today Show. It'll be their first time in the Big Apple.

"We can get out and tell people how grateful we are for their support," said LaQonna before their departure.

Anderson says he's looking forward to getting back to his business, taking the kids out on their go-karts and fishing.

"The only thing I can say is, it was bigger than me," said Mike. "Prayer still works. That's the only thing I get from this, really."

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37 comments
BarbaraCoogan
BarbaraCoogan

I fell I did the right thing by signing the petition.  I think this man deserves to be free.  I think speaking engagements will be offered to him.  I wish him the best and hope for him a happy life with his family. They deserve it.

Dave Hutton
Dave Hutton

I really do wish that the Judge would have sentenced him to community service. He seems like a great role model on turning your life around. Seems he could have given some speeches to others going through tough times, or even at risk youth.

Riverfront Times
Riverfront Times

His victim advocated for his release, as we've mentioned in past coverage.

Tony Santander
Tony Santander

Lin Staum I was only comparing rape and murder in the context that what would peoples opinion be if that were his crime, and him doing no time

Lin Staum
Lin Staum

"It's worth noting that the point of incarceration is personal reform, not satisfying some sick hunger for retribution. It's good to see a judge who understands that." A Robert Jacques

Lin Staum
Lin Staum

Absolutely. Why are people so upset he wasn't jailed? Be upset the system dropped the ball!

Lin Staum
Lin Staum

Robbery and rape are not equal. You can't even compare the two.

Lin Staum
Lin Staum

If you have followed the story, you would see he is an upstanding citizen. It isn't like he ran from serving his time for 13 years. He has reformed himself 100X more than any prison would have. If it were you, wouldn't you feel like living your life for 13 years and then having to abandon your family would be unfair? Especially after working and providing for your family all that time?

Roy Mosley Jr
Roy Mosley Jr

Happy it turned out good for him and his family!!

RJ Alexander
RJ Alexander

Think of all the people sitting in jail that 10-15 yrs have done by and are charged with a crime..oh wait they been good so they should b freed truly a disgrace

RJ Alexander
RJ Alexander

Funny I guess he is a church going guy that just happen to commit a armed robbery ..A thug thought was smart enough to lay low its that simple .

Kristine Byrne
Kristine Byrne

LOL Yeah, Webster Groves is a wonderful "hiding" spot. Sorry son, YOU'RE the joke. Don't "read" much do ya... If you did, and followed this story, maybe your "thug" comments wouldn't show your true self. But alas, they do.

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

I really hate they way the media is portraying him as some kind of epic hero...

A Robert Jacques
A Robert Jacques

It's worth noting that the point of incarceration is personal reform, not satisfying some sick hunger for retribution. It's good to see a judge who understands that.

Todd Schneider
Todd Schneider

Now he is free to do it again no justice for his victim

RJ Alexander
RJ Alexander

Now he can be a Thug again no warrants for his arrest ..He can go back to lifestyle he was accustomed too before he had to vanish from radar

RJ Alexander
RJ Alexander

You people crack me up..Go rob a bank and hide for years and I will tell judge it was right for you todo and u were good boy ..You stayed out of trouble cause you hide very well and knew not to ever do something that may get you picked up...what a joke

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

he's already got a job in the obama administration.

Riverfront Times
Riverfront Times

His *one* victim from his *one* crime strongly supported his release.

Tony Santander
Tony Santander

I wonder what everyone's opinion would be if he would have been a convicted murderer or rapist?? I'm not sure if he truly paid for his crime.

RJ Alexander
RJ Alexander

How is anyone happy for him? How about the victims of this thugs crimes...

Dave Brown
Dave Brown

Now he can go back to coaching the Razorbacks!

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

@BarbaraCoogan I agree with you that his family deserves it. But why do you think Anderson deserves to be happy and free when he CHOSE to wait for 13 years to be picked up by authorities and CHOSE to create a family KNOWING what he should have really been doing? WHY?

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

Well I'll be darned! So let me go out and commit a crime and hope that the system drops the ball in my case so I don't have to do the time! :)

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

You're points are WEAK. Quit living in la la land.


Tony Santander wasn't comparing the two types of crime.


Let's say he raped and killed someone. And that's the ONLY difference here. And that everything that actually followed in this case still happened.


Would so many people STILL feel the same way about him and view him as a fricking Saint??? I seriously think not.

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

Actually, a lot of us have been following this story.


In 2000, Cornelias Michael Anderson III CHOSE to commit a crime. He, according to what HE SAID his lawyer TOLD HIM, CHOSE to sit around for 13 years waiting to be picked up by authorities and serve his prison sentence which was issued by the court. So, of course during these 13 years he's going to sure as hell change his life around and become the most upstanding citizen he could possibly become. OF COURSE HE TURNED HIS LIFE AROUND. Because he KNEW HE WAS SUPPOSE TO SERVE A LONG, LONG TIME IN PRISON. And yes, there were SEVERE CLERICAL ERRORS made by the state. But those severe clerical errors doesn't mean he shouldn't serve the sentence he was given by the court. You follow? In the end, however it will come, karma will come knocking on his door. It's real simple folks, you do the CRIME, you do the TIME. And he absolutely DID NOT DO THE TIME. Life is all about CHOICES. He CHOSE to make the wrong one back in 2000. And he never did the time. It's real simple, folks, it's real simple. And he CHOSE to have four kids and a wife in the past 13 years KNOWING HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN PRISON. Now, he's affecting THEIR LIVES. You see my point? He CHOSE to commit a crime, CHOSE NOT TO TURN HIMSELF when he knew damn well that THAT was the RIGHT THING TO DO. LIFE IS ABOUT MAKING CHOICES. And he keeps making the WRONG ONES.

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

Actually, a lot of us have been following this story.


In 2000, Cornelias Michael Anderson III CHOSE to commit a crime. He, according to what HE SAID his lawyer TOLD HIM, CHOSE to sit around for 13 years waiting to be picked up by authorities and serve his prison sentence which was issued by the court. So, of course during these 13 years he's going to sure as hell change his life around and become the most upstanding citizen he could possibly become. OF COURSE HE TURNED HIS LIFE AROUND. Because he KNEW HE WAS SUPPOSE TO SERVE A LONG, LONG TIME IN PRISON. And yes, there were SEVERE CLERICAL ERRORS made by the state. But those severe clerical errors doesn't mean he shouldn't serve the sentence he was given by the court. You follow? In the end, however it will come, karma will come knocking on his door. It's real simple folks, you do the CRIME, you do the TIME. And he absolutely DID NOT DO THE TIME. Life is all about CHOICES. He CHOSE to make the wrong one back in 2000. And he never did the time. It's real simple, folks, it's real simple. And he CHOSE to have four kids and a wife in the past 13 years KNOWING HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN PRISON. Now, he's affecting THEIR LIVES. You see my point? He CHOSE to commit a crime, CHOSE NOT TO TURN HIMSELF when he knew damn well that THAT was the RIGHT THING TO DO. LIFE IS ABOUT MAKING CHOICES. And he keeps making the WRONG ONES. Let me repeat, Cornelias Michael Anderson III KNEW from the moment the court sentenced him to prison that he SHOULD HAVE SERVED HIS TIME. AND HE CHOSE NOT TO.

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

THANK YOU!! When I first heard this story back in February, all I paid attention were the FACTS. Who, what, why, when, and where is ALL I need to know. Like I stated in the above comment in response to Lin Staum, Anderson sure as hell knew what he was doing the past 13 years! He CHOSE to commit a crime in 2000. He knew damn well what he was suppose to do, SERVE THE TIME. But he DID NOT. He CHOSE for the next 13 years to start a family, a family he KNEW damn well was going to be dragged in this mess one day. Unless he's truly stupid and bla-ze about the whole situation, he KNEW he was not going to get away with this for the rest of his life, at least in the life that he is currently living.


Unfortunately, there's something called KARMA that DOES exist. And more unfortunately, it will most likely fall onto his children and wife.

miles.lindum
miles.lindum

Prison serves several purposes; one is reform. There are two others: justice for those hurt by the criminal act, and preventative detention. 


In this case there was nobody hurt, and there was obviously no need to detain him as he's stopped robbing banks. 


An exceptional result for common sense.

Jances
Jances

The victim advocated for his release!

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

And? What's your point? He still CHOSE to sit around for 13 years waiting to be picked up by authorities to SERVE HIS TIME based on his OWN WORDS. And last year they finally did.


Oh, but it was due to clerical error. So what?


Oh, but because of clerical error and this and that, and this and that and blah, blah, blah, blah. All these clerical errors made 13 years ago is actually quite IRREVELANT now. It really is.

Bottom line here again, folks: LIFE IS ABOUT MAKING CHOICES. 13 years ago Cornelias Michael Anderson III CHOSE to do the wrong thing. And DID NOT SERVE THE TIME when he KNEW he should have. He was NEVER told otherwise. He was told by his lawyer "to expect to be picked up by authorities". And he waited, until finally last year when they came knocking on his door.


So many of you commenting on this article are so, so much MISSING THE POINT in this whole case. LIFE IS ABOUT MAKING CHOICES. He knew damn well what should have happened 13 years ago.


Also, I find it interesting how these clerical errors came at the time when he should have been taken in by authorities to serve his time. I'm not trying to insinuate anything here in this point. But think about it.


I'm also curious to hear what his lawyer from back then has to say about all this.

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

I wonder , too. Someone above, if I'm not mistaken, ASSUMED you were comparing the difference between robbing a bank and raping/killing someone. And to defend you, that's not what you're doing here. You're making a valid point.


Let's say he raped and killed someone. And that's the ONLY difference here. And that everything that actually followed in this case still happened. Would there still be so many blinded people living in la la land STILL feel the same way about him and view him as a fricking Saint???


By the way... you're baby is ADORABLE.

Mediterraneanqueen
Mediterraneanqueen

@miles.lindum Of course he stopped robbing banks. Not because he knows now that it's WRONG TO DO. But because he sure as hell knew he should have been spending the past 13 years behind bars. Of course he's not robbing anymore banks.

Jances
Jances

@Mediterraneanqueen  

In 2004, Anderson filed another appeal based on inadequate legal representation at his trial. The appeal stated that Anderson was not in prison and it gave his current address at the time, but the Missouri Department of Corrections apparently did not notice this. Nothing happened with the appeal and for the next seven years Anderson went on with his life. During this time, he met his wife, LaQonna, they married in 2007, he founded a company (Anderson Construction and Investment), and he led a normal life.


Incompetence of government and law enforcement should not equate to saving face by stripping a self reformed law abiding citizen of his freedom!


The facts of his case are the FACTS!!! Let it go or write your congressmen to change the law!



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