“You’ve been a good father,” Brown said. “You’ve been a good husband. You’ve been a good taxpaying citizen of the state of Missouri.
“That leads me to believe that you are a good man and a changed man.”
As the judge announced his decision, about 10 of Anderson’s relatives broke out in sobs and cried. Some hugged and thanked God.
Anderson’s plight drew international headlines last month. An online petition on change.org includes more than 35,000 signatures urging the state to set him free.
The release was met with virtually no resistance from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Assistant Attorney General Michael Spillane told Brown the court should consider the seriousness of Anderson’s crime, but also Anderson’s behavior over the 13 years of his freedom and the impact that imprisonment would have on his family.
Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement, “From the outset, I have proposed a solution that balances the seriousness of Mr. Anderson’s crime with the mistake made by the criminal justice system and Mr. Anderson’s lack of a criminal record over the past 13 years. Today’s outcome appears to appropriately balance the facts as we understand them.”
The judge said that rather than grant parole, Anderson would get credit for the entirety of the time he should have been in prison. The distinction is important because it means Anderson doesn’t have to report to a parole agent.
Megaro lauded the state’s understanding of an occurrence that is exceedingly rare.
“This was not an easy case,” Megaro said. “I believe it teaches us that justice can be swift, justice can be harsh, but justice also can be merciful.”
Anderson had never been convicted of a serious crime before the robbery. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the holdup, then told to wait for orders that would specify when and where he was to report to prison. But the orders never came. Anderson suspected that his case had been overlooked and asked his former attorney what to do.