Three days after he submitted a court document opposing Cornealious “Mike” Anderson’s fight for freedom, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster seemed to express sympathy with his plight.
Anderson was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2000 for helping rob a Burger King employee a year earlier, when he was 22 years old. He was granted bail pending appeal and when his appeals were exhausted waited for a date to surrender, which never came.
He got married, bought a house, fathered four children and became a taxpaying, churchgoing small-business man.
The state realized its error in July 2013, when prison officials slated to release Anderson found he never served his sentence. He was arrested and taken to prison to begin the stretch, and he’s arguing that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
“My goal is to suggest a way for the court to appropriately balance the seriousness of Mr. Anderson’s crime with the clerical error made by the criminal justice system, alongside Mr. Anderson’s conduct since his commission of the crime,” said Koster in a release Friday. “All three factors deserve recognition in resolving this difficult situation.”
It's unclear if Koster's statement reflects a softening of his position. In his Tuesday filing, Koster swatted at Anderson's cruel and unusual punishment claim and dismissed other arguments presented by defense attorney Patrick Megaro as antiquated, irrelevant or misdirected.
“Anderson took advantage of the situation in the apparent hope that no one would ever bring the bond to the court’s attention,” Koster wrote. He suggested Anderson refile his case against the Missouri Department of Corrections seeking time served.
Megaro told U.S. News he doesn’t believe the time-served option is worth pursuing because state law bans credit for time served while people are on bail. He said he spoke with Koster on Tuesday and “did not get the impression he personally wants to see my client in prison,” but rather is obligated to argue the state’s position.
In a Thursday filing responding to Koster, Megaro wrote the state unfairly blames his client for the mix-up that resulted in the long-deferred sentence. Anderson, he wrote, had “no duty whatsoever” to force himself into prison while out on bond.
Megaro also filed a clemency request Thursday with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. The Riverfront Times reports Nixon has used his clemency-granting power once since he took office in 2009.
The Burger King employee who Anderson robbed told the NPR program “This American Life” in February he hopes the state drops the case.
“He wasn't out robbing other people, doing this, that, and the other,” the victim, identified only as Dennis, told NPR. “He seemed to have gotten his life together. You've got to give the guy a little bit of slack. I mean, yeah, he screwed up when he was little. But the law dropped the ball. The law ought to drop it completely. They need to leave the man alone.”