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Innocent man who spent nearly 10 years in prison officially exonerated: ‘It’s finally over’

COVINGTON, Va. -- Exactly one year after CBS 6 visited Gary Bush at his parents' home in rural Covington, the 68-year-old received the news he had been waiting more than a decade to hear.

I was out weed eating and mom accepted the call, and they told me I had been exonerated finally after 12 years," Bush said.

The Innocence Project at the UVA School of Law called Bush to tell him the Virginia Court of Appeals had finally cleared the name of the onetime convict.

CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit talked to Bush by phone about the news.

"What was your reaction?" Hipolit asked Bush.

Gary Bush

"Elation, and then I keep thinking about how the justice system really screwed me over," Bush said.

In November of 2006, police arrested Bush and charged him with robbing banks in Petersburg and Prince George.

From day one, he professed his innocence, but he was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"When you heard guilty what was that like for you?" Hipolit asked Bush when she interviewed him in Covington last year.

"Well, I was stunned, of course. That's the reason I didn't sleep for about 9.5 years, fitful sleeps trying to figure out how I got there," Bush said in 2017.

But, less than a year from his release date, another man came forward and admitted to the crimes.

Bush and Amos

At the time of the robberies, Christian Amos and Gary Bush looked nearly identical.

CBS 6 spoke to Amos last year from inside the Riverside Regional Jail.

"I had no idea my actions would have caused so much pain and suffering for Mr. Gary Bush. He missed his daughter's wedding, ten years of his life cause of me, I feel like, oh damn," Amos told us in 2017.

After Amos' confession, Bush was released from prison, but he still had to wait to have his name officially cleared by the court.

Christian Amos

That happened this week, when a three-judge panel signed off on two writs of actual innocence.

"I was joyful, I was glad to hear it was finally over, no more government over my head, I was on unsupervised probation, now I don't have to worry about that anymore," Bush said.

Still, Bush said the moment feels bittersweet.

"It bothers me every day. I think about it all the time, that was a lot of my life to take away from me," Bush said.

He now plans to seek compensation from the state for spending more than nine years in prison for something he did not do.

"You want to be compensated obviously?" Hipolit asked.

"Yes, I think I should be," Bush replied.

As for the man who actually committed the crimes, Bush said he still does not blame him.

"Do you ever think of Mr. Amos?" Hipolit asked.

Gary Bush

"Yes, I do. I feel sorry for the gentleman. No one deserved that much time for robbing a bank with a note to start with, plus he gave himself up, and 12 years is a hard pill to swallow," Bush responded.

"Are you interested in meeting him?" Hipolit asked.

"Yeah I would talk to him." Bush replied. "I'd tell him I hold no animosity against him, it was the justice system that did me in."

Bush said he no longer trusts law enforcement, and he believes there are other innocent people serving time.

While he worries about them and has trouble accepting that he lost nearly 10 years of his life behind bars, he said the only thing he can do at this point is to make up for lost time and keep busy.

"Anything else you want to say Gary?" Hipolit asked.

"Uh, no, I have tons of work to do right now, I'm trying to clear off a hillside.  I've been working on that for two years now," Bush replied with a laugh.

A state legislator will now need to introduce legislation requesting compensation from the state for Gary Bush.

If the General Assembly approves, they will use a formula established in state code and the money will come out of the state budget.

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