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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Sentenced 13 Years After Conviction

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A man who was sent to prison after his sentence was mistakenly delayed for 13 years has requested a hearing seeking his immediate release. The man now has a family of six and his own business.

Cornealious Anderson was sentenced to 13 years in prison for an armed robbery in St. Charles County in 2000. He was out on bail while the case was appealed, and when the appeal failed, Anderson was never ordered to jail.

Since then, Anderson has become a carpenter, got married, had four children and started his own construction business.

The Department of Corrections noticed the error last summer, at about the time Anderson would have finished serving his sentence. Marshals arrested Anderson in suburban St. Louis, at the address listed on his driver's license, and sent him to prison to serve the 13 years.

In a motion filed in Mississippi County Court on Thursday, Anderson's attorney Patrick Megaro, of Orlando, Fla., said Anderson was not responsible for the clerical error that kept him out of prison.

Megaro claims since Anderson stayed out of trouble while he was released, he complied with the conditions of his bail. He asks that Anderson be credited for the time he was waiting for an order to return to court.

"One of the goals of the criminal justice system is to reform individuals to make them productive, contributing members of society," the motion states. "He was able to accomplish by himself what the criminal justice system consistently fails to accomplish for millions of others - to reform them and make them better citizens. It would be absurd to expect that incarcerating this man at this stage in his life, given all of his accomplishments, would reform him. Rather, the reverse is true: we would be taking a good person out of society and making him bad. In short, there is no good reason to incarcerate this man after 13 years other than vindictiveness.

"The cruel and unusual punishment lies not in the 13-year sentence, but its application 13 years later, that would destroy not only the life that this man has worked so hard to achieve, but ruin the lives of 4 young children and a young wife who depend on this man. Such a scenario is not only illegal, but immoral. As the Bible instructs, 'Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers.' Deuteronomy 24:16.

"Prison is intended to segregate those individuals that pose such a threat that their

removal from society is necessary for the protection of the public. Prison is inappropriate for people such as Cornealious Michael Anderson III, who are the pillars of the community. Society loses if this man is incarcerated at this stage in his life after all that he has accomplished."

The motion was a response to the motion that Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed Tuesday. Koster rejected a request that Anderson be released from prison, but offered to bring action against the director of the Department of Corrections that could lead to Anderson's release.

Koster's office released a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in response: "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. All three factors deserve recognition in resolving this difficult situation."

Megaro's latest filing says that approach wouldn't work.

"Here, petitioner possesses greater equitable rights than the State," the motion states. "It was the State of Missouri through the prosecutor that failed or refused to execute upon the judgment of conviction and sentence. It was the Missouri Department of Corrections that failed to take any remedial action on a 'prisoner' that was not actually incarcerated until 13 years later. Whether the Clerk of the Court shares any responsibility is irrelevant for the purposes of this petition, because one thing is abundantly clear - Cornealious Michael Anderson III bears no responsibility for the delay."

Megaro also cited a petition drive on Change.org that collected more 29,600 signatures in support of Anderson's release. Megaro also stated that Anderson's victim believes it would be an injustice for Anderson to serve his sentence.

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