People are calling for the justice and freedom of a young Black autistic man who was sentenced to 10 out of 50 years in prison for a car crash.
On Jan. 4 Matthew Rushin struck another moving vehicle in a parking lot on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach on Jan. 4. Rushin was sentenced to serve 10 years for deliberately causing a three-car crash, according to 13 News Now. The other two drivers, Danna and George Cusick, were visiting Virginia Beach from New York. At the time, they were on First Colonial Road when Rushin, 21, crossed a median and drove directly into the Cusick’s car at 65 miles per hour.
“I heard my husband say, ‘What the…’ and I see one light and he swerves a little bit…boom! The car imploded, literally imploded,” detailed Danna. The woman said first responders were sure that George would die. Thankfully, he survived but his stay in the hospital costs the family $20,000 a month. “He’s had infections, traumatic brain injury, he cannot speak, he cannot eat by himself, he needs total care, he cannot walk, he barely moves,” said Danna.
On Aug. 6 Rushin pled guilty to two counts of malicious wounding and one count of felony hit-and-run. The outlet reports that if the case had gone to trial that the Commonwealth Attorney’s office says evidence would have proven that Matthew Rushin struck another moving vehicle in a parking lot on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach. Rushing was sent end on Nov. 6, 2019.
“Had this case gone to trial, the commonwealth’s evidence would have proven that on January 4, 2019, Matthew Rushin struck another moving vehicle in a parking lot . . . did not stop, and instead fled the parking lot,” read a news release at the time. “Just moments later, Rushin was driving recklessly on First Colonial Road, passing traffic and speeding. When he reached a median break, he drove straight into oncoming traffic and [struck] another vehicle head-on. It was occupied by a husband and wife who were visiting Virginia Beach from New York.”
It continues, “Rushin climbed out of his vehicle and stated that he was trying to kill himself. Investigation revealed that he was driving approximately 65 m.p.h. right before the crash and did not apply his brakes.” Prior to the incident, Rushin was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s as a child and later experienced a traumatic brain injury. His parents, Lavern and Demetrius, said Rushin would compose poetry, play the piano and often posted love-endearing posts on Facebook. Since then, a Change.org petition has been started to raise awareness and seek justice for Rushin. Autism experts have reportedly joined forces with Rushin’s family, calling on Northam to grant him an absolute pardon.
Neuroclastic.com, which has written exclusively about the case, posted a video from Rushin’s interrogation by police. In addition, on Tuesday, the site published a letter from a forensic engineer and traffic collision reconstructionist who examined the evidence and found that it does “not support the theory of suicidal behavior or attempted homicide.” It continued: “On the contrary, the evidence presented strongly suggests pedal misapplication as the primary collision factor,” reads the letter, which has been sent to the governor’s office. “Pedal misapplication is a common cause of crash collisions among those age 16-20 and those with poor executive function, as is common in autism and ADHD.”
The letter says the evidence indicates the collision “was an accident.” “Matthew made a mistake,” Vance writes. “Would we criminally penalize a driver who fainted? Who had a seizure but didn’t know they had a seizure disorder? Who had an allergic reaction? Is it a crime, a moral failing, something worth removing from someone their freedom, to make a mistake as a direct result of having a disability? Or is it that being Black and disabled makes a mistake a criminal offense?”