If a Man is Sentenced but Never Arrested, Should He Still Go to Jail?
Cornealious “Mike” Anderson is currently serving 13 years in prison for an armed robbery he participated in 15 years ago. Convicted in 2000, Anderson was on bond when he filed his appeal in 2002. The court filing indicated that he was currently on bond and listed his current address. The appeals court upheld his conviction and Anderson prepared to be arrested.
The arrest came, but it was 13 years later.
In July 2013, at the time that he should have been released, the Missouri Department of Corrections realized they had made a clerical error and never took Anderson into custody. They immediately arrested him and took him to prison. He has remained there for more than nine months.
The delayed arrest uprooted the model life he had made for himself while waiting to be taken into custody. He remained in the same neighborhood, married, started his own successful business, and was raising four children. He became a well respected member of his church and community. He was doing all of this in full view of the authorities who were not paying attention.
In December, his new attorney filed a petition of Writ of Habeas Corpus, claiming that uprooting Anderson from a life that he had obviously rehabilitated amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The petition details the events, noting that the court and the State of Missouri knew Anderson was out on bond and that there was never any notification to either his counsel or Anderson that he should surrender himself.
This week the State of Missouri says Anderson still owes them time.
The Missouri Attorney General, Chris Koster, filed its response to the petition, claiming that the clerical error did not absolve Anderson of his responsibility to surrender. The state acknowledged that there was no notification given to arrest Anderson, but he was still required to serve his time. The AG pointed out that erroneous releases from prisons happen all the time and that courts have repeatedly ruled that re-incarceration is appropriate.
He did note, however, there may be a way for Anderson to get out of prison.
One of the points made in the response was that the circuit court in which Anderson’s petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed did not have jurisdiction or authority to grant the relief sought. Koster then outlined a scenario in which Anderson could be granted relief:
“If Anderson files a declaratory judgment action and names the Director as the defendant, this Court may then consider whether to direct the Department of Corrections to credit Anderson for time served after his appeal bond expired by operation of law when the Missouri Supreme Court issued its opinion. That could make Anderson eligible for immediate parole consideration.”
In short, Koster noted that defendants out on bond have been given credit for the time they were erroneously released from prison. An appeals court ruled in one case that the Department of Corrections erroneously released the inmate through no fault of their own and, therefore, the sentence continued to run while he was at liberty. Koster suggested that Anderson could argue for consideration of such relief – if it was filed correctly.
He said that Mississippi County was not the correct jurisdiction for the venue and it should be in Cook County, the location of the original case 15 years ago (the current petition was filed in the county where Anderson is now serving his sentence). Koster noted that the Director of the Department of Corrections would agree to the change of venue to expedite the case if Anderson filed a declaratory judgment against the correct parties (meaning the Director George Lombardi). He said that the Director would take no position (meaning he would not support or, more importantly, oppose) if the court directed the Department of Corrections to credit Anderson for the years he was never taken into custody.
This would mean that Anderson would be eligible for parole immediately.
Anderson’s attorney, Patrick Megaro, isn’t convinced this is a plausible course of action. He told USA Today that the attorney general has misinterpreted the law and that “you don’t get credit for time served in jail when you’re not in jail.” He also said that after talking with Koster, he realizes Koster doesn’t necessarily believe Anderson should be in jail.
Koster’s response all but says the state is willing to make things right:
“The question before this Court in a declaratory judgment action therefore, would be whether this Court should direct the Department of Corrections to credit Anderson for time served between the time the Missouri Supreme Court issued its opinion and the time he was rearrested. Anderson’s ten-year first-degree robbery sentence, a sentence for a dangerous felony, has an 8.5-year parole ineligibility period under Mo. Rev. Stat. 558.019, and his armed criminal action sentence has a three-year ineligibility period under Mo. Rev. Stat. 571.015. Crediting the period after the appellate opinion issued in 2002 would make Anderson immediately eligible for parole consideration, although whether to grant parole is a matter on which the Parole Board has almost unlimited discretion. Neither the Warden, nor the Director of the Department of Corrections, take a position on whether this Court should declare Anderson should receive credit for time between the decision in his direct appeal and his arrest.”
Koster has previously said that he doesn’t feel that the current situation is fair to Anderson. The victim of the crime 15 years ago has also gone on record saying he thinks Anderson has more than made up for what he did. For now, Anderson remains in prison as he waits for the court’s decisions on the petition. It is unclear if his attorney will follow Koster’s advice and file the declaratory judgment action.
In the meantime, please sign the petition to encourage the court to consider the fact that Cornealious “Mike” Anderson spent his time giving back to society in the most positive ways possible. He deserves credit for that.
Photo credit: Cornealious “Mike” Anderson on his wedding day via Riverfront Times, courtesy LaQonna Anderson