In his 13th year of rebuilding his life after prison, 43-year-old New Haven resident Demetrius Jermaine Anderson may have to return to jail upon orders from federal court in Philadelphia because of a decade-old court oversight.
Anderson was sentenced twice on separate but similar counterfeit currency charges in both federal and state courts, and served the longer of the two sentences before he was released. Now, 16 years after his original sentencing, Judge Paul Diamond from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has signed an arrest warrant for Anderson.
“To allow a man to establish himself in the community, and to snatch his freedom away from him again is, quite frankly, cruel and unusual,” Michael Dolan, the attorney representing Anderson, told the News.
The Federal court brought charges out of Pennsylvania, where Anderson eventually pled guilty to two counts of possessing and passing counterfeit currency, as well as one count of identity theft in Pennsylvania for crimes that occured in 2003. He was sentenced to 16 months for these charges. Shortly afterwards, Anderson was charged by the State courts for separate counterfeit currency charges, and was sentenced to three years in state custody in New Haven.
Anderson said that he believed that the two sentences run concurrent to each other, meaning that the 16-month sentence would be a part of the three year sentence. But Dolan told the News that “the Federal system did not recognize Connecticut’s order that the two charges be run concurrent.”
Anderson served three years in a Connecticut state prison and was released in 2006. Dolan said that often, when a person who is incarcerated is released, the Department of Correction does a check to see if there are any outstanding holds or additional warrants.
Over the last 13 years, Anderson worked various jobs, becoming “a manager at a big box retailer” for five years before getting a job with the City of New Haven in the Parks and Recreation Department. He also works a second job in human resources for a community nonprofit. Dolan noted that Anderson is an active member of his church and has led a “law-abiding life” since then.
“I’ve been doing great, maintaining good rapport and networking. It’s just been a good balance. No run-ins with law since coming home. It just feels good. It wasn’t hard to turn my life around,” Anderson said of his life after his 2006 release.
But at roughly 7 a.m. on Feb. 28, Anderson heard knocking on his door. He said that the U.S. Marshals outside took him directly to the federal court of New Haven. There was a request from Pennsylvania — where the original crimes occurred — to hold him, but at the time, the judge in New Haven released him temporarily on bond.
Dolan said that apparently, the U.S. Marshals in Pennsylvania conducted an audit, which revealed that — at least according to the Federal system — Anderson had never served the 16-month federal sentence.
Anderson is ordered to show up on April 4 in U.S. District Court of Philadelphia to attend a hearing before a judge.
“It’s daunting. I’m trying to stay optimistic,” Anderson told the News. “It’s traumatic. It’s scary. It’s scary as hell.”
Before the court appearance, Anderson is planning to file a request to U.S. President Donald Trump to commute his sentence, Dolan told the News. But Dolan, who cannot represent Anderson in Philadelphia because he is not licensed in Pennsylvania, said that they are afraid that the judge in Philadelphia is going to impose the sentence.
Dolan argued that the “negligence of the system” — whether from federal agents’ failure to provide proper notification of the dual sentences, the State’s failure to recognize the notification or the U.S. Marshals’ lack of oversight in their previous audits — is evidence of the illegality of the confinement.
Dolan has been in touch with federal public defenders in Philadelphia to discuss remedies and options for the future. He raised the possibility of filing a habeas corpus petition — a report to the courts of unlawful imprisonment or detention. Dolan told the News that raised concerns that Anderson may have to be in prison for the petition to be filed. Still, he said that they will hopefully file it before April 4.
“[Anderson is] a modern day Jean Valjean of Les Miserables,” Dolan told the News in an email on March 25.
Additionally, Anderson’s brother murdered his mother, stepfather and sister in 2015. Dolan said that this has added to the “tragedy” of Anderson’s story.
Ever since receiving the arrest warrant, Anderson told the News that he has experienced an outpouring of support.
“Because I’ve worked so hard to turn my life around … I was thinking that people were going to be real, real judgemental, but it was the opposite. In fact, I’ve been getting mad support from people,” Anderson said. “It’s been really great because I need that.”
Anderson was released on an unsecured bond of $50,000.
Sammy Westfall | firstname.lastname@example.org