Hearne: The Sentencing of Hereford House Owner Rod Anderson

1351716034-fat_city_rod_anderson_thumb_220x219Let me begin by telling you that this was a very humbling experience…

Anyone who’s ever faced hard times – like Anderson’s Hereford House did – can maybe relate to the feeling of despair this otherwise model Kansas City citizen was experiencing and the temptation to opt for a seemingly easy out in the form of an insurance fire.

There’s no doubt arson was the wrong way to go, of course.

Yet despite continuing to proclaim his innocence, as Anderson has, it was clear at yesterday’s sentencing that both he and lawyer J.R. Hobbs were quite shamed and apologetic for what Anderson had done.

Yet five years after the fact, there we all sat in a courtroom packed with friends, family and former associates and civic leader Anderson braced for the worst. A 15 year sentence was awarded with restitution to be determined.

And there was Anderson, the always impeccably dressed, well coiffed businessman / restaurateur, beat down and forlorn in a faded orange jumpsuit with the word “Inmate” stenciled across the back. Adorned in chains that ran from his ankles to his wrists, then around his waist.

There would be no courtroom antics, outbursts or rough housing on this sad day, Anderson was in full lockdown.

This was a very sad day for a very sad man.

And there they all were, Anderson’s sorrowful friends, family and business associates, a sorrowful judge and a sorrowful, apologetic defense lawyer. The only one in the courtroom still up for hammering Anderson was the prosecutor, U.S. attorney Jess Michaelson.

Michaelson had a job to do which was to sternly remind a courtroom full of Anderson sympathizers that but for the kindness of fate, any number of people might have lost their lives or been badly injured as a result of Anderson’s $2.4 million insurance fire in 2008.

Harry Murphy the owner of Harry’s Country Club in the River market and a former Hereford House Leawood employee was on hand for the glum affair.

It’s difficult to describe Anderson’s look in the courtroom.

But it was somewhere between wildly fallen and humbled with equal parts despair and resignation. It was as if the worst bad dream imaginable for Rod Anderson had become unbelievably and horribly true.

logoHe had the look of a man who knew better – and should have known better – but it was far too late to do anything about it.

Except possibly lie.

There’s little doubt that Anderson’s gone over this entire misadventure in his head a thousand times. Yet now, at age 60, he’s going to jail broke, stranding his family with expensive private school tuition and college fees and a very uncertain future. And when Anderson finally does get out of jail, he’ll be at an age and in a financial condition that won’t make it easy to break back into the business scene, pay his restitution and maybe get his arms around a final few golden years.

Yeah, Rod Anderson’s a model citizen alright, but in the sense that we should all model our futures so as not to follow his footsteps to a life of ruin.

It’s almost impossible to imagine a worse fate befalling such an esteemed member of the community.

It was a far cry from the dapper, outgoing Rod Anderson I once knew.

The affable accountant who breezed into town a few decades back and took over a losing proposition called the Hereford House at 20th and Main. It was old school to a fault and was losing ground fast to the new breed of steakhouse chains ranging from Outback on the lower end to Capitol Grill on the higher.

Anderson made the most of it though by keeping his comfort food style steak prices low and using restaurant trade to barter for advertising to help promote the joint. And with a vaunted name like the Hereford House, clearly Anderson had a Kansas City institution to sell and sell it he did.

Somehow it all worked, but then he tried to go King Midas opening additional eateries helter skelter, all over the area. Including a financially ruinous one in Lawrence, another that tanked in Westport and lots of fumbling about in Union Station.

But back to the sentencing…

Anderson’s lawyer did his best to try and shame the judge into going light on his client based upon the nobility of Anderson’s many good deeds and civic contributions.

“He’s now 60 years-old and he has no criminal history,” Hobbs pleaded. “And he has demonstrated throughout his life that he can be a productive member of this community.”

We learned that Anderson had worked with the Boy Scouts, his son was an Eagle Scout, that he’d provided food for the homeless, student loans for needy college kids – good deeds galore all across the city. Tossing Treads & Threads into the mix seemed a bit of a stretch, but the bottom line was – and everyone but the prosecutor seemed to agree – that Anderson was a jolly good fellow and a jive mellow farmer.

His lawyer boasted to the court that the letters of support he’d filed on Anderson’s behalf were the best he’d ever seen and the judge later agreed.

And while you’d never know it by the end result or looking at Anderson, his sentencing was about as close to a love fest as you’ll ever probably see in a court of law. For the guilty party, no less.

Know what though? It worked.

The judge all but apologized to Anderson for having to sentence him and then let him off the hook by following the minimum sentencing guidelines instead of sticking it to him as the prosecutor had asked.

Anderson tripped on his chains as he rose to address the judge and the court.

“I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak today,” he began. “I’ve always taken pride…”

Then he began to cry before quickly composing himself and adding that he was glad there were no injuries to the firefighters. He thanked his family and friends and then – without so much as gazing up or looking in the direction of his family and friends – Anderson returned to his seat, head bowed in shame, wearing the look of a man walking to his execution.

By this time of course, prosecutor Michaelson had had more than enough.

Michaelson was pisssed and chastized Anderson for not taking one of the plea deals and saving taxpayers the time and expense of trying him. He then hammered Anderson because he had still not accepted his guilt and continued to profess his innocence.

“He used dangerous men to destroy the restaurant and endanger the lives of others,” Michaelson advised the judge. “He was fully aware of the consequences of his actions…He says he’s glad no one was injured, but I say he was lucky…He was lucky one of his hired thugs didn’t kill one of themselves, otherwise he’d be facing life in prison…He wanted that old dog destroyed.”

It was truly a massive and very unpleasant trip up Shit Creek for Anderson.

And screw all of Anderson’s good deeds, Michaelson argued forcefully.

They were “just in the past.”

Five years to yesterday’s court date and “He’s still denying his involvement in the arson,” Michaelson ripped. “These are not the actions of someone who deserves leniency, your honor.”

Which brings us to U.S. District Judge David Gregory Kays.

courthouse_kc_660Kays started his portion of the proceedings by thanking all of Anderson’s supporters for being there “to support Mr. Anderson.” Almost as if Anderson was being honored rather than disgraced.

Like Hobbs, Kays said he’d reviewed the many testimonial letters and couldn’t remember anyone ever getting a better batch.

But….

“My job today is to fashion an appropriate punishment,” Kays continued.

And while Kays was more than willing to kill Anderson with kindness, he also added – ominously I might add – that “I feel the evidence is very strong” against Anderson.

Not a good sign for Anderson where a possible appeal is concerned.

“Then we look at your history,” Kays continued. “And frankly, Mr. Anderson you make this difficult. People like you who have a lot to give the community make it very difficult for a judge.”

Having familiarizing himself with Anderson via the many letters of support, Kays characterized him as “the type of person anybody would like to have as a friend.”

“Here we have this really good guy, a part of the Kansas City community who did something very wrong,” Kays said. “And it’s very important that people know that no matter who you are, you’re not above the law. I’d be surprised if you don’t get out of prison and do good things. I hope you do.”

Anderson has 14 days to appeal.

Following the sentencing Anderson rose and turned to his wife in the front row, reaching out for a farewell embrace. But it was not to be as the guard pulled him away and ushered him to the exit door and on to a life of uncertainty, frustration, fear and loneliness. Like I said, it was as sad a sight as could be imagined.

I’ve never known a man to fall that hard and that far – that ruinously and that patheticly – and that needlessly.

Let Rod Anderson be a model for us all in the hope that when our time comes and everythings on the line…we somehow know better.

We’d better.

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38 Responses to Hearne: The Sentencing of Hereford House Owner Rod Anderson

  1. harley says:

    nice story hearne….rod was a good guy who went bad.
    We ha ve banksters and wall street thieves who brought the world to its knees
    with their cheating walking the streets. where are they…still gambling with
    the money and not a single one of them in jail.

    But let Harley say this….”this is not over”…this story is long from over….
    the other 2 got sentenced to 15/20 years without parole.
    hearne…its not over…we’ll read more about this as time goes on.
    If you read the article I think in the star there was one other person
    involved…their name was not mentioned.
    get your top reporter Wilson on this pronto!!!!!!
    as for rod….he’ll be looking for redemption and forgiveness…but this
    sentence was pretty harsh.
    why no plea bargains…I can only assume why based on the stories I’ve read
    and heard.
    I imagine he’ll be put in minimumsecurity.
    I knew one man who went to prison in Leavenworth and was in dorm
    style area where the average net worth of the prisoners was about 100 million
    dollars each…
    but again….the system picks and chooses the winners and losers.
    after 5 years of hearing what those guys on wall street did this is
    penny ante in comparison.
    again thanks for taking my advice and writing this article about rod.
    too bad…lifes a bitch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    • M.A. Alford says:

      Jesus, I sold a TON of sh*t to Harley this weekend.

      • M.A. Alford says:

        He just loved everything I had from my dead (Wink) brother. He kept referring to himself in the third person–

        “Harley loves that picture of President Obama and Slim Pickens on that nuclear bomb, he will take it!!”

        • M.A. Alford says:

          If I am convicted of fraud, I hope I get “minimumsecurity”.

          • M.A. Alford says:

            M.A. ALFORD: “Tony, come on man, take that shi*t down.”

            TKC: “I’m running a lil’ light on lil’ Debbie.”

            M.A. ALFORD: “All right, all right, I’ll be right over.”

          • SmartmanFromBeyond says:

            Mr. Alford, Harley may sound like and idiot, he may type like an idiot, his grammar may be that of an idiot, his comments may take on the appearance of the ramblings of an idiot, but don’t let that fool you; he really is an idiot.

          • harley says:

            hey smartman….i’m alive..living in my
            600K house…buying a new Mercedes..
            opening a new business…my girlfriend is
            incredible…
            working out 1-2 hours a day…in great
            shape…running the bleachers of the high school….in excellent health…
            headed to vegas for big 4 day party…
            i’m making big money…just got another
            big account in texas….
            family is healthy….4 nephews and counsins
            getting married in the next 12 months….
            we’re rocking the world…
            and where is smartman…dead!!!!
            where is chuckles the sad clown?
            sitting on his old recliner watching old
            tv and writing on tkc and kcc how
            he hates everyone…and he’s the biggest
            hater in the city..hatesveveryone…
            where’s the bald guy?
            wherees dave….hating everyone..trying to
            write a book…growing old
            SO WHEN YOU OLD GUYS GET OUT
            SOMETIME…GIVE ME A RING AT
            MY EMAIL ADDRESS…
            YOU’RE LOSERS…I’M A WINNER…
            AND BEING OLD AND GRUMPY IS THE
            WAY YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE.
            Remember…$10,000 cash and I prove
            everything!!!!!!!!!!!!
            have fun in your section 8 housing waiting
            for the check to come in the mail!!!!!!
            heres what you are L O S E R S…..
            today…tomorrow…til the day you’re laid
            in the dirt.
            have a great life losers…
            because Harley is living the GOOD LIFE!!!!!

  2. legendaryhog says:

    Did I miss it or did you not list the sentence? What was the outcome?

  3. Irishguy says:

    “I’ve never seen a man fall that hard and that far – that ruinously and that patheticly – and that needlessly.”

    And how many posts did you just write about Tommy Morrison?

    • admin says:

      Entirely different deal…

      Morrison’s fall began the moment he hit the big time and was there for all to see. There was NEVER any doubt that Tommy would go down in flames.

      All that was missing was the exact manner.

      Friends of his talked of walking into his place and seeing literally mountains of cocaine.

      Rod Anderson was a pillar of society as far as most people know and now he’s actually worse off going to prison broke at this stage of his life than Morrison was when he went in.

      • Irishguy says:

        Really? You constantly compared the heights Morrison reached to Dawson, Brett and Watson. And, of course, he made millions both in boxing and in the one movie.

        So what heights did Anderson reach that he would fall harder, farther, and more ruinously, pathetically and needlessly than Morrison?

        Basically, both guys’ story seems to be the same — victims of their own terrible choices. So excuse me if I choose to shed no tears over either.

        • the dude says:

          Last time I checked nobody was holding a gun to this boob’s head forcing him to torch his restaraunt for insurance fraud money. Boo freakin’ HOO.

          • admin says:

            That’s a little harsh, but you’re right, Dude.

            The bottom line here appears to be the case of a very good man making a horrendously bad decision.

        • admin says:

          These are two entirely different people and situations, Irish Guy.

          Tommy did reach certain heights – heights that do not compare to someone running a chain of restaurants in the small midwestern city.

          The heights Anderson reached were those of a successful, respected entrepreneur. A civic leader who was admired by many.

          Morrison was admired despite his many character flaws. And thus his fall from grace (if you will) was very predictable.

          But given that he was on life’s sports stage – not that of a businessman working comparatively quietly behind the scenes – his notoriety and accomplishments in his field in sports and that it even garnered him a sizable role in a major motion picture makes for a truer comparison to other local athletes who played the fame game.

          Even Morrison’s eventual fall from being a successful athlete was entirely predictable. All pro athletes have a shelf life.

          That’s not so much the case businessmen.

          Had not Anderson erred so badly in judgment, he theoretically could have had a long and distinguished career as a restaurateur and civic leader.

          Anderson’s fall was completely unexpected and tragic.

          Morrison’s entire life was a tragedy, but with a small window of fame and fortune that he quite predictably and totally blew.

  4. mike t. says:

    good column, hearne. sad indeed.

  5. paulwilsonkc says:

    He got 15 years and a yet to be determined restitution. Sad day for all.

  6. richard ausbrook says:

    Sad story about Rod Anderson. 15 year Fed sentence, probly Leavenworth camp. Should have pled down. Wasted five years maneuvering. Made family situation worse. Could have been getting out soon if not delusional.

    • admin says:

      Interesting point.

      Somebody had to ante in a lot of lawyer money to play this thing out for five years. Money that could have maybe helped keep the family afloat.

      Unfortunately, sometimes one bad decision leads to another. Been down that road myself (but don’t take that the wrong way).

      • harley says:

        hearne…the money had to be astronomical for 5 years!!!!
        I wondered why he didn’t take a plea deal?
        and who were the other people involved?

        • admin says:

          I agree.

          And this probably wasn’t one of those on-the-house legal deals based upon all the good publicity the legal team would get

  7. Jim MacDonald says:

    Hearne,

    Rod Anderson was one of my best friends. We played poker and went mano a mano in golf at his country club many, many times. He is without question one of the finest human beings I have ever known. I can only imagine the sense of desperation that would allow this lapse in judgement. If I know Rod, and I really think I do, he’ll make a positive impact on the world, perhaps while still in prison! God has him right where He wants him now.

    Jim MacDonald

    • admin says:

      Let’s hope that you’re right, Big Jim

    • harley says:

      jim….
      maybe he’ll find jesus .
      it changed other’s life…maybe it can change his.
      hopefully something good will come out of all this mess.
      we all ask for redemption and second chances…maybe
      he will find his path in life….
      so sad…but we all make decisions that affect others..

      • Harley says:

        Hearne, you should do a story on the Last Supper. What a night!! I was there, I took that picture. email me at lost4alife.com I will give you the scoop.

        • The Real Harley says:

          I wanna
          make sure I …clarifie what I said
          so no won acuzes me of lying…..
          ….I was not at the last supper
          I…
          was at the next to the last supper…
          it was..
          VIP only, just close friends of Jesus
          the last last supper was just a photo op
          boguss meal, not the
          reel thing and something
          to go in the Bible
          to make it look like he was with
          his readers, descip3les and followers
          those closest to Jesus
          were at the next to the last supper
          held in a sky box at the ampfutheater
          in
          town. Lots of great wine, ran
          out of wine
          and he made more
          some foot
          washing and cool stuff….
          my family was friends of his
          family going weigh back
          and I got my
          invitatioun becauze of
          that comnection
          I still have the commmemmerative
          glass he gave us his bestest friends
          so wilsun, chuckles the sad clown and
          fat
          not so super dave stfu I was not
          only their I was at the bests version
          of it
          so just zip it you broke dic loosers
          Id be interested in craigs take on this well
          go back to
          youre minamum wage jobs
          and blue color ways
          I have mega bisnisses to start
          and more milluns to make
          idiots

  8. Is it just me, or is it the normal thing to do, when facing an impossible financial situation, to go see a bankruptcy attorney? Rather than hiring a bunch of creeps to go bust the joint out? Either this Anderson watched one too many Goodfellas and Sopranos airings over the years, or dude’s got some serious mental and accountability issues. Besides, betcha he’ll be out in 5 to 7. I wouldn’t fret too much over this guy.

    • the dude says:

      My widdle fiddle pways for dis poor fellow. NOT.
      He should have taken the plea when he knew he royally screwed it up.
      This trial was a waste of everybodies time and this and the torching of is restaraunt to defraud his insurance company erases any good this clown did.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        I’m all over this story with the missing puzzle piece no one has solved.
        There was allegedly a 4th, unidentified suspect in the arson. The ATF churned out a press release on June 9th, 2011, stating so. They have an image on tape that shows the 4th person, but they have never identified who it was.
        To wit;
        Thanks to one of my kick ass tipsters, I’m about to have enough proof to go public with the fact the 4th person was Tommy Morrison and the whole gig was planned downstairs in the vacant Jardine’s space.
        Craig was involved as a look out, standing outside on the corner of the building, but no one recognized him since he was wearing sunglasses.
        Craig will not be charged as there’s no positive proof tying him to the fire and Tommy recently passed away. I don’t know if you saw that in the news or not. True story.
        Stay tuned, FILM at 11:00pm!

    • harley says:

      doubt it….I think the sentence was he gets no parole.

    • admin says:

      You could be right, Rage.

      He could even prevail in his appeal.

      But right now he appears to be beyond broke and whatever additional money he spends trying to beat the rap isn’t going to help his situation.

      Then who is going to want to hire him and / or finance his next restaurant when and if he does get out? At an age pushing 70 by your measure.

  9. KCMonarch says:

    Mo money, mo problems.

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