A black man suffering from autism was granted a conditional pardon by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday after he was sentenced to a decade in prison for being involved in a non-car accident.
According to Rusin’s lawyer Miriam Airington-Fichter, 22-year-old Matthew Rushin of Virginia Beach was sentenced to 10 years in August 2019 for a car accident without being convicted of a trial.
George Cusick, who was injured along with his wife, Danna Cusick, was disabled as of the January 2019 incident, according to Airington-Fichter.
The conditional pardon comes after a nearly two-year social media campaign led by Rushin’s mother, Levran Rusin, who maintained her innocence and advocated her release.
“Every day he lived behind bars, we lived behind bars,” Lavern Rushin told NBC News. “We felt every pain and despair of them – we wish we could relieve the pain of the victims because we know that they feel it every day.”
At the time of the proceedings, Airington-Fichter, who was not a family lawyer, said Rushin’s defense counsel argued that the car collision was “unintentional”, but prosecutors argued that Rushin committed suicide by driving in oncoming traffic. Tried.
Leveran Fisher said he had a seizure related to his autism at the time of the incident and was never medically evaluated for mental illness before being arrested and questioned by police.
“If they had taken Matthew to the hospital, he might have been much more excited.”
The Virginia Beach Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
“In this case, the victims and their families have to bear our hearts for the ongoing pain and legal process,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “While it is certainly within the authority of the Governor (granting pardons), this office considers that the sentence imposed by the court was fair, just and reasonable.”
The attorney’s office said, “Governor Northam is not altering Mr. Rusin’s sentence in any way. Matthew Rushin has been convicted for the felony in which he pleaded guilty,” the attorney’s office said.
After Rushin went to jail, Levaran Rushin resorted to social media to raise awareness about his son’s arrest and punishment.
She launched a GoFundMe page, which raised legal fees in her defense by more than $ 115,000 and an online petition that collected nearly 250,000 signatures demanding her son’s release.
He said his early release would not be possible without “heavy support” from the disability community, as well as celebrities such as Beyoncé’s mom, Tina Lawson, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, NBA star Dominic Wilkins and music artist Jason Flom.
Lavern Rushin said Northam granted a conditional and partial pardon five months after filing his petition in June.
The Governor’s Office said that under the governor’s instruction, Rushin’s sentence would not be abolished, but he would be issued “not before Spring 2021” under a home plan approved with a Virginia parole board officer for five years.
According to the Governor’s Office, in addition to the evaluation of substance abuse, Rushin is required to participate in mental health and counseling services. He is also prohibited from driving for the rest of his life, and is not allowed to own firearms or contact victims of car accidents.
Violating conditions within the next decade, Rushin will be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Cusick could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday, but Danna Cusick said in a statement to ABC News that Rushin “should never drive again.”
He said, “I wish him well and hope he stays safe.” However, the public needs to be protected, ”she said. “Now, George is a shell. He can breathe on his own and shake his arms a bit but that’s it. We do not know if he knows us. He does not give us any answer. His smile faded away. George is gone and we miss him. “
Hearing the news of her son’s release where Levaran Rushin was excited, she said there were still many challenges to face, including medical issues related to her vision and the trauma the families of the victims faced.
He said Rushin represents one of several cases in which people with disabilities are wrongly convicted.
“My hope is that we continue to look at the criminal justice system and change it, not only to my son, but to hundreds of people with Matthew – those with autism or other physically and mentally disabled people in prison” she said. .
“We need a system that provides better support for people with mental disabilities, especially their interactions with police officers.”