(KMOV.com) – A judge on Monday freed a Missouri man who was forgotten about in the prison system.
Cornealious "Mike" Anderson dabbed tears from his eyes as the judge announced his decision during a hearing that lasted just 10 minutes.
Judge Terry Brown declared his 4,794 days free counted as time served.
"I believe continuing to incarcerate you serves no purpose, would be a waste of taxpayer dollars and punish a good man," Brown said.
Anderson embraced his wife and daughter in an emotional scene. He left the courtroom with his wife and 3-year-old daughter on one arm and his mom on the other.
Anderson was convicted of robbing a Burger King in St. Charles in 1999. He was supposed to report to prison in 2002 when the appeals process ran out, but was never incarcerated due to a clerical error.
In the years since his conviction, Anderson started his own construction-related businesses, married and had children. He also coached youth football and volunteered at his church in Webster Groves, Missouri.
Before being driven away to a freedom celebration, Anderson told reporters he was "very happy. My faith has always been in God. I'm just so thankful. Thank God for everything."
Missouri 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 rather than Anderson being granted parole, he would get credit for the 4,794 days between when he was convicted and when he was arrested last year.
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. Even Koster seemed inclined to find a solution to resolve what he called a "difficult situation."
In July, Anderson's sentence was supposed to end. It was then that someone at the Missouri Department of Corrections realized he had never been put behind bars. Eight U.S. marshals arrived one morning at his home in a middle-class neighborhood and took him away. He was in prison by noon that day, and has remained behind bars ever since.
Anderson’s attorney filed a lawsuit in late April against the director of the department of corrections. The lawsuit argued Anderson should receive credit for the 13 years he was free.
The Associated Press contributed to this report