In 2006, Demetrius Anderson walked out of a Connecticut state prison a free man.
And then, last week, getting ready for work at New Haven’s parks department, he was confronted by eight U.S. marshals who showed up at his apartment door. Of course, the 43-year-old was confused.
“They pushed me on my refrigerator, so now I’m cuffed in a robe, and ransacked my place,” Anderson said to WNPR. “They were saying they needed to go and make sure no one is here.”
Apparently, a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Anderson is originally from Philadelphia), signed a warrant because he failed to serve a 16-month federal sentence, 13 years ago.
Anderson always thought his state sentence was concurrent to his federal one, especially because when he got out of prison, there were no federal officials to transfer him to another facility.
So what had happened?
During an internal audit, reports CNN, federal marshals realized that Anderson never served prison time for his federal charge on counterfeiting money, and so they asked a judge to issue a warrant for his incarceration.
His lawyer, Michael Dolan, thinks that this mistake—nearly 13 years later—is the definition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”
“The department of corrections will do a warrant check, a detainer check,” Dolan told CNN’s Don Lemon. “We presume that that was done back in 2006.”
“I can’t speak to why they went back that far or why this wasn’t caught earlier,” he said.
Many criminal justice advocates, including Van Jones, of the Reform Alliance, have spoken out on behalf of Anderson.
“You’re talking about somebody, who for 13 years, almost, has not had an overdue library book,” says an incredulous Jones to CNN’s Lemon. “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.”
WNPR reports that Anderson was due in federal court in Pennsylvania April 4. But Dolan says the Bureau of Prisons may now credit Anderson for the 16-months under the Doctrine of Credit for Time at Liberty, which would have Anderson remain at liberty for the government’s error.
That, or they may have to appeal to President Donald Trump for a commutation.
“I’m at the mercy of the President right now to help fix this,” said Anderson, according to CNN. “I still have faith in the judicial system that they could rectify it.”
Updated, 4/3/19, 8:42 a.m. EST: Demetrius Anderson will not have to return to federal prison, according to his lawyer on Tuesday.
Fox 61 News reports that the lawyer said that there was a miscommunication between Connecticut’s Department of Corrections and the feds when Anderson was released back in 2006.
Federal authorities say that Anderson should have been turned over to them when he was released from state prison, but his lawyer said that his client thought that his federal 16-month sentence was running concurrently with his state one—especially when no one was there to re-arrest him when he was released (which is standard protocol.)
The site reports that a deal was struck, and Anderson was given credit for the time he supposedly owed the government.
Anderson is a free man.