In the very early hours of November 16, 2014, Cornealious Michael Anderson III was arrested in downtown St. Louis, accused of stealing a woman's purse near the corner of Fourth and Gratiot streets. Not many purse-snatchings make the news, but this one was different. Anderson gained international media attention last spring when a judge freed him from prison after the state of Missouri incarcerated him thirteen years late on a burglary charge from 1999 (a quick refresher on that later).
After his November arrest, Anderson's father told Riverfront Times that both his son and his son's wife were at a birthday party with about 40 coworkers on the night of the incident. Anderson's attorney, Patrick Megaro, said he was "completely confident it'll be completely exonerated."
On November 18, 2014, Riverfront Times went to the last bar that Anderson was in to view the security footage. We took several still photos of that footage. Then last week, Riverfront Times received a "Grand Jury Subpoena Duces Tecum" commanding us to turn over those photos. Because of that, we've decided to make them public for anyone to see.
Anderson, you may remember, was the subject of a September 2013 RFT feature story called "The (Extremely) Long (and Sometimes Forgetful) Arm of the Law." Last February, This American Life also did a segment on Anderson. Both stories told the saga of how the Missouri government forgot to incarcerate Anderson for a 1999 burglary he committed when he was 22 years old. In the thirteen ensuing years, he'd started a business and a family, and had not re-offended. The state's blunder and Anderson's tardy imprisonment gained international media attention. A petition for his release received more than 35,000 signatures. Even Anderson's victim wanted him released. In May 2014, a judge awarded Anderson credit for time served and allowed him to return home to his family. That was, seemingly, the end of the story -- until November 16.
Here's what has been made public by the St. Louis Circuit Attorney thus far: At about 1 a.m. on November 16, 2014, a woman was approached by a black male suspect who grabbed her purse. In the struggle, the man dragged the woman. Police stopped Anderson just north of the crime scene because he matched the suspect description given by the victim. Police drove Anderson back to the woman who identified him as her assailant. Her companion also ID'd Anderson. He was arrested and charged with second-degree robbery.
Anderson's family and attorneys are adamant that police arrested the wrong man. They say Anderson and his wife, LaQonna, were at a birthday party for Anderson's boss at a nearby bar, and that Anderson was walking to retrieve their car. The group arrived on a party bus and the couple decided to leave the group early.
Riverfront Times has been looking into Anderson's alibi. We were shown security footage of the bar where Anderson and his wife were before he left and began walking. The bar owner agreed to let us view the footage on the condition we not name his business (the Circuit Attorney's Office and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department already know the name of the establishment). We watched the tape several times. It shows Anderson and his party arriving, staying for about 40 minutes, then Anderson leaving alone around 1 a.m. The bar owner warned that his security system would tape over the footage in about a month's time. That is apparently what happened before law enforcement retrieved a copy of the tape.
So, Riverfront Times possesses the only (very blurry) images of the footage. We always intended to make these (terrible) photos public, but planned to wait until a significant development in the case to include them in a larger writeup. As of now, Anderson has been charged but not arraigned. His hearing has been continued twice already.The Circuit Attorney's subpoena commands that we appear for a deposition and turn over the photos, or simply produce the photos ahead of the deposition date. We've decided to make the images public so that anyone with an interest in the case can see them.
There is one wrinkle in the photos' usefulness: The clock on the security system was running fast. We snapped this photo which shows the playback tape's date and time, with the actual date and time below:
Our camera time-stamped the above photo at 5:50 p.m., meaning the security system's clock was running roughly 37 minutes fast on the evening we visited. There's no telling if this is how off the security cameras were the night that Anderson was in the bar.
This photo shows Anderson and his wife arriving at 12:59:00 a.m. If the clocks were off by 37 minutes, that puts their arrival at about 12:22 a.m.:
Here is a photo of Anderson just a few minutes before he leaves:
And here are a couple of views of his exit (again, apologies for blurriness). The footage shows him stopping to take a couple photos with friends before he leaves. The time stamp is 1:30 a.m. Adjusting for the clock error, that should be at about 12:53 a.m.
Though the photos are blurry, Anderson is identifiable by his clothes and bald head. His outfit matches the one that was shown with his mugshot:
In order to honor our agreement with the bar's owner, these photos have been cropped and retouched slightly to take out identifying signage in the room. Nothing else has been changed. In total, we took fourteen images of the screen and -- believe it or not -- the above represent the best, clearest views of Anderson.
Reached for comment, Anderson said, "I walked from that place to get my wife's truck so we could go home early. The evidence speaks for itself, not the police report."
He added, "Thirty-five other people, the club owner, knows I was there. Everybody knows I was there."
We'll continue to update as more information becomes available.
Email the author at Jessica.Lussenhop@RiverfrontTimes.com.