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Man Mistakenly Released 13 Years Ago Won’t Have to Return to Prison

by Douglas Ankney

Connecticut man arrested for his unintentional failure to serve a 13-year-old federal prison sentence was released from custody in March 2019.

Philadelphia native Demetrius Anderson had not only remained free for those 13 years after completing his sentence at a Connecticut state prison in 2006, he also built a new life as an upstanding citizen, as he had promised his mother. Since 2012 he had worked for New Haven’s parks department as a caretaker for the Lighthouse Point Park carousel. He owns a two-bedroom condo and is an active member of Joy Temple Church.

Then on February 28, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Diamond in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania signed a warrant for Anderson’s arrest. A routine audit by the U.S. Marshals Office revealed the 43-year-old had never served a 16-month sentence imposed in 2005, after Anderson pleaded guilty to federal charges of possessing and passing counterfeit currency and identity theft while he resided in Pennsylvania.

Anderson subsequently pleaded guilty in New Haven to similar, but separate, charges and was sent to prison in Connecticut. He said he thought the sentences were run concurrently. After finishing his state prison term in 2006, no one remanded him to federal custody and no detainer had been entered in his file. Federal officials said that was due to a clerical error, so the U.S. Marshals secured a warrant for Anderson’s arrest.

“You’re talking about somebody, who for 13 years, almost, has not had an overdue library book,” said criminal justice reform advocate Van Jones with the nonprofit organization Reform Alliance. “This is someone who is gainfully employed, this is somebody who is part of a church community, this is somebody who is doing all the things we want him to do. Why would you go back then, to the back of the sock drawer, to find some clerical error to destroy this man’s life? It makes no sense at all.”

Anderson’s attorney, Michael Dolan, argued it would be cruel and unusual punishment to return his client to prison after he had successfully turned his life around.

“He’s been crime free, drug free, has employment,” he said. “And now they try to take him back into custody.”

“It’s called corrections,” Anderson noted. “I corrected myself. I don’t want pity. I just want people to be ethical.”

Prison sentences are generally served continuously, not in intervals separated by over a decade. Federal prosecutors and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) apparently agreed, because they gave Anderson credit toward his sentence for his time spent successfully staying out of subsequent criminal trouble – known as the “Doctrine of Credit for Time at Liberty” – which satisfied his outstanding, unserved prison sentence.

“I’m overjoyed but waiting for official paperwork,” Anderson said. “It’s a blessing, but I want the blessing to be official. My heart is back in my chest where it should be.” 

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Sources: cnn.com, yaledailynews.com, inquirer.com, newhavenindependent.org, theroot.com, thegrio.com