Michael Cornelius Anderson was arrested in 1999 for armed robbery. He helped rob a Burger King manager. He was then sentenced to 13 years behind bars. He posted bail and waited to be taken to prison.
Except, he said, no one never came to bring him to jail. Thirteen years passed and Anderson joined a church, started a small business, got married, had children, and never left the St. Louis area.
He lived a quiet life, until a SWAT team came to his home last summer and arrested him. Anderson described the surreal experience to Jessica Lussenhop, as told on NPR's This American Life.
I was sleeping. I was awoken. I was about 6 o'clock in the morning, woken by knocking at the door. And it was unusual knocking. It was the consistent knocking-- you know, the hard knocking.
So I knew something-- what is going on? So I just stood at the top of the stairs for a moment. And finally I said, who is it? I'm in my boxers. And they said, marshals. Open it up or it's coming down. Opened up the door.
As soon as I opened up the door, it was a small army. I mean, it was about eight of them. They had the shields. They had the helmets. They had the AR-15 style machine-looking guns. And they had the street blocked off. And I said, hey man, you got the wrong person. And he just looked at me. He said, no, you're the right person.
Anderson's original lawyer, like almost everyone else involved in the case, assumed Anderson went to prison. But Missouri Department of Corrections eventually discovered the clerical error that had kept Anderson out of jail.
Anderson's wife Laqonna says she is heartbroken. She told local reporters in September that she didn't know much about Anderson's past.
Anderson's attorney is currently arguing that the father of three has been noting but a model citizen in the years since his arrest. He was even pulled over by police for a couple traffic violations and never attempted to conceal his identity.
Many have taken to Change.org, which is currently petitioning the Attorney General of the State of Missouri and Mississippi County Judge T. Lynn Brown to release him from prison.
Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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