Virginia man spent nearly 10 years in prison for crime he did not commit

Posted at 10:22 PM, Jun 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-07 11:57:09-04

COVINGTON, Va. -- Among his native mountains, the streams that wind around western Virginia beckon Gary Bush.

Bush loves fishing, and doesn't mind waiting indefinitely for a bite.

That patience and hope may have saved Bush as he laid on a prison cot for nearly a decade for two crimes he did not commit.

"I just kind of laid in my bed the whole time," Bush said in an interview at his parents' house. “For nine-and-a-half years I did."

Bush still flashes back to that November day in 2006 when officers pulled up to his parents' house in Covington, Virginia and arrested him.

Gary Bush

"It was unbelievable... out of nowhere," Bush said.

Police charged him with two bank robberies.

The first took place in Petersburg in October of that year, and the other in Prince George a month later.

"They charged me, booked me, put me in Riverside Regional Jail," Bush said.

Bush lived in Prince George at the time and prosecutors said three different bank tellers picked his picture out of a line up.

"My picture had already appeared in the newspaper, and the two tellers in Petersburg picked me out of the photo lineup. I am sure after seeing my photo in the paper," Bush said. "In Prince George, I had done business with this girl at the bank before, and that's probably one reason why she recognized me."

The robber handed the bank teller in Prince George a note that read "I have gun."

The one fingerprint found on that note did not belong to Bush.

"I think they finger printed me five times trying to get my finger prints to match the fingerprints on the note," Bush said.

But, a customer told police he recognized the robber from drug houses in Hopewell.

Bush admitted he used cocaine at the time and had recently been charged with possession.

Still, he remained steadfast that he was innocent of the robberies and pleaded not guilty.

Gary Bush

But, neither a jury in Petersburg nor a judge in Prince George believed him.

"When you heard guilty what was like that for you?" CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Bush.

"I was stunned, of course," Bush said.

"That's the reason why I didn't sleep for about nine-and-a-half years but fitful sleeps trying to figure out how in the world I got there," Bush said.

Bush said he lived at six different prisons during his sentence and even thought about taking his own life.

He constantly worried about his aging parents and missed his daughter's wedding.

"My daughter getting married and me not being able to walk her down the aisle, that really hurt a lot," Bush said.

Then less than a year before his release date, a call out of the blue from his lawyer, who told him another man, Christian Amos, had come forward and admitted to robbing the banks.

Christian Amos

"I prayed for it every day," Bush said.

Prosecutors said Amos told police that he was finally moved to confess after giving his grandson a lecture about telling the truth.

He claimed he did not know someone else had served time for his crimes.

Within ten days, prosecutors released Bush who said he feels no ill-will toward Amos.

"I feel sorry for anybody that would go and rob a bank with a note and get as much time as I did," Bush said.

"Do you still trust and believe in our criminal justice system?" Hipolit asked.

"No… definitely not. The innocent until proven guilty?  You're guilty until you can prove yourself innocent," Bush responded.

Gary Bush

The Innocence Project at UVA School of Law is assisting local counsel with the case.

Jennifer Givens, with the Innocence Project, said they intend to pursue exoneration by filing a Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence.

She said they may subsequently or simultaneously pursue an absolute pardon from the Governor.

If those efforts succeed, Bush can pursue compensation through the General Assembly.

At this time, both Bush and Amos remain convicted of the same crime.

Bush will not be exonerated until the writ goes through or he gets pardoned.

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