Demetrius Anderson walked out of a Connecticut state prison in 2006 thinking he was ready to leave behind his criminal past and build a new life as an upstanding citizen.
The Philadelphia native stayed in Connecticut and stayed out of trouble. He has two jobs, lives in a nice apartment and belongs to a church.
But last week, eight US Marshals came to his home. He was certain they were after the wrong person. He hadn't committed a crime in more than 13 years. They insisted he come with them to court because he still had a 16-month federal sentence to serve for crimes he committed in Philadelphia.
Anderson thought his state sentence was concurrent to his federal one. And when he got out of prison early, there were no federal officials to transfer him to another facility.
He went out and got a job, reported to his parole officer, and lived a crime-free life.
But during an internal audit, federal marshals reportedly discovered Anderson never served prison time for his federal charge. They asked a Pennsylvania judge to issue a warrant for his detention.
'Cruel and unusual punishment,' lawyer says
Michael Dolan of the Dolan Law Firm in New Haven helped get Anderson released the day the marshals detained him, and he has been working with federal public defenders to keep his client from going to prison again.
"I certainly think it is cruel and unusual punishment," Dolan said Thursday.
Anderson was first held in Connecticut, but in 2004 was sent to Pennsylvania where he was locked up while awaiting his federal trial on charges involving counterfeit money. After he was sentenced in 2005, he was transferred back to Connecticut where he pleaded guilty to forgery charges and other counts. The judge said the sentences would run concurrently, Dolan said.
"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.
Dolan said he's never seen a case like this. He wants to talk to the US Bureau of Prisons about a legal principle involving sentencing credit for "time erroneously at liberty." It is usually applied to convicted people who are not taken to prison right away or mistakenly released from prison.
'It's scary, I'm scared. It's bleak, it's dark ...'
The worst case scenario is a federal judge will send Anderson to prison next week.
"He's really a fragile guy right now," Dolan said.
Anderson and Dolan told Lemon that Anderson's brother murdered his parents in 2016. The trauma of the murders, Anderson said, has led him to go to therapy and made the thought of federal prison even worse.
"It's scary, I'm scared. It's bleak, it's dark; I can't imagine it. I don't think I could handle it considering what I'm going through," he said.
Anderson is in the process of filing a request to President Donald Trump for commutation of his sentence.
"I'm at the mercy of the President right now to help fix this," he said. "I still have faith in the judicial system that they could rectify it.
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