Matthew Rushin Case: Thanks to Governor Pardon, Autistic Man Sentenced to 50 Years Is Released From Prison

Matthew Rushin

Matthew Rushin was a former Old Dominion University student.

An autistic Virginia man has been released from prison after serving two years of a 10 year-sentence for 2019 injury-causing car accidents, according to CNN.

Matthew Rushin, 22, had his sentence partially commuted by Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday. In some of the requirements of his commuted sentence, Rushin can never own a firearm, operate another vehicle or contact the victims, according to 13NewsNow.

“We’re overwhelmed with emotion and joy and just elated that he’s finally home,” Rushin’s mother, Lavern Rushin, told The Virginian-Pilot following her son’s release.

His mother said the first thing he wanted to do was get a cheeseburger from his favorite local diner. She said he got that, as well as fries and a chocolate milkshake. Lavern also told the news outlet that they were planning on taking him to a hospital to have a cyst on his pituitary gland examined.

Rushin was released from Nottoway Correctional Center in Burkeville. He pleaded guilty in January 2019 to two counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit and run, personal injury. 

Authorities said on Jan. 4, 2019, Rushin struck a moving vehicle in a parking lot and fled, authorities said. Rushin then drove head-on into oncoming traffic and struck another vehicle, leaving two people seriously injured, according to the Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors said he was suicidal and intentionally meant to cause the crash, WAVY reported. However, his mother said the crash was unintentional and pointed to the fact that he is autistic, saying he was forced to plead guilty because he feared going to trial.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison, with a judge suspending 40 years of the sentence, prosecutors said.

His mother, members of the autism community and Black Lives Matter advocates advocated on behalf of Rushin and pushed for his release. Some major stars like author John Grisham; actress Jamie Lee Curtis; and Beyonce’s mother Tina Knowles Lawson helped bring attention to the case and pushed for his release.

Danna Cusick, who was visiting from New York State, was injured along with her husband, George, in the crash. The couple were struck head-on and George was left brain dead. She issued a statement to The Virginian-Pilot expressing her disappointment with the early release. George Cusick, who was 72 at the time of the crash, is no longer able to walk, talk or feed himself and lives in a nursing home, the news outlet reported.

“Matthew Rushin for all intents and purposes killed George,” Cusick wrote in her statement. “His life continues, but our George is gone. We loved the George that we had, and we love the George that we have now.”