CHARLESTON, Mo. – An error in the prison system allowed a Missouri robbery convict to walk free for 13 years.
Family members say 37-year-old Mike Anderson used that time to build a life as a model citizen and devoted father.
When the state realized its mistake last summer, Anderson was thrown in prison.
On Monday, he appeared before a judge to appeal for his freedom.
When Mike Anderson came to court, he didn’t know if he would have to finish his 13 year sentence or get to go home.
Anderson said, “No, I had no idea. I was just believing by faith, was praying he’d make the right decision.”
Mike Anderson Sr., Anderson’s father, said, “I don’t have words. I really don’t have words for what today means. I mean, to have my son walk out and come home means the world to me.”
It was 1999 when Anderson and a cousin robbed a Burger King employee.
He was sentenced to 13 years but was released.
Officials say a clerical error was to blame for Anderson never learning where or when to report to prison.
For the next 13 years, he married, became a father of four, started a business, coached youth football and volunteered at church.
When the state discovered its error, police arrested him and he was placed in prison in July.
He said, “It was extremely difficult for my family, just thinking about my family.”
Anderson said he always had faith he would be released.
In court, the judge said keeping Anderson locked up would be a waste of tax dollars and would punish a good man.
The judge applied the 13 years he was free as time served and told him to go home to his family.
Patrick Megaro, Anderson’s attorney, said, “I believe this case teaches us justice can be swift, just as it can be harsh but justice can also be merciful.”
Anderson said, “Thank you everybody for your support, everybody who signed the petition, all the support.”