After arrest by corrupt cop, 6 years in prison, N. Philly man to be freed

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has agreed to dismiss all charges against a North Philadelphia man who has served more than six years in prison for a drug conviction based on the testimony of a disgraced police officer.

Assistant District Attorney Robin Godfrey, chief of the office’s Post Conviction Relief Act unit, confirmed that prosecutors had dismissed the charges against Feldon Bush, 34, in a motion Monday before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Glynnis Hill.

Hill was the same judge who on June 4, 2010, sentenced Bush to five to 10 years in prison on his conviction on drug and conspiracy charges involving a 2007 crack cocaine deal in North Philadelphia.

“Thank God,” said Ruth Miller, 51, Bush’s mother and strongest advocate.

Miller said she relayed the news to her son in the state prison in Chester by phone Monday. She said he is eager to get out, and anxious because he has to wait until the court paperwork gets to prison officials, possibly on Tuesday.

Her son, she said, was eager to start picking up the pieces of the life he left behind. Part of that will be literally retrieving his name: a typo years ago misspelled it “Busch,” and that’s been his official name for much of the last decade.

Bush will live with her, Miller said.

“He don’t have no choice,” Miller said. “He don’t have anything.”

Bush’s protracted case was featured in the second part of a series, “Justice on Hold,” which appeared Nov. 21, 2016, in the Inquirer and Daily News.

Bush’s lawyer, James R. Lloyd III, could not be reached for comment.

Bush served most of his five- to 10-year prison sentence in the state prison at Rockview, near State College. Miller said her son was recently transferred to Chester because he was possibly being paroled within months.

From the beginning, Bush maintained that he was innocent, and that his conviction rested only on a murky identification by ex-Philadelphia Police Officer Christopher Hulmes.

But Hulmes’ identification and reputation — he was a 19-year veteran with 13 years on the Narcotics Strike Force — held sway in court, and Bush was convicted and sentenced.

It was not until 2014, when Philadelphia City Paper and the Inquirer and Daily News began chronicling allegations that Hulmes lied in arresting alleged drug defendants, that the veteran narcotics officer’s reputation began crumbling.

In May 2015, Hulmes was arrested and charged with perjury and lying on paperwork used to arrest drug suspects.

Last June, the District Attorney’s Office agreed to let Hulmes, 44, enter a pretrial diversion program for first-time offenders after he promised not to try to get his job back.

As with other narcotics officers found to have falsified documents and testimony, the Defender Association of Philadelphia announced a review of 529 Hulmes drug convictions to see whether any of them should be vacated.

Commonwealth v. Feldon Busch was one of them.

Bush, however, then encountered the harsh reality of a decade of prosecuting corrupt Philadelphia drug police: The list of convictions being reviewed was long and growing, and Bush was not near the top of the pile.

Since 2006, Assistant Public Defender Bradley Bridge has filed more than 1,300 petitions asking to vacate the drug convictions of people arrested by six police officers prosecuted for corruption by the U.S. attorney.

With limited support staff, Bridge said, he and Godfrey have resolved roughly two-thirds of the cases and vacated 852 convictions, but must finish the rest before reviewing the 529 Hulmes cases.

With up to four years left on his sentence, Bush sat in Rockview and seethed, filing his own regular, angry court briefs expressing his frustration at the pace of review.

Bush and Miller pushed for a court-appointed lawyer to handle his case. Last April, Lloyd was appointed to handle Bush’s appeal.

Bridge said Monday that he and Godfrey are to be back before a Common Pleas Court judge on March 3 to submit for dismissal another group of cases involving corrupt narcotics officers.

“It really just never does seem to end,” Bridge said.