Crash victims react to partial pardon of VB man who crashed car in what prosecutors called a suicide attempt

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach man who pleaded guilty to crashing his car into another in what prosecutors said was a suicide attempt will be getting out of prison sooner than he expected.

On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced a partial pardon for Matthew Rushin, 22, effectively reducing his sentence so he may be released as soon as next spring. Rushin was serving a 10-year active sentence on two counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run resulting in personal injury.

The crash, which happened on First Colonial Road on Jan. 4, 2019, severely injured a couple from New York. Two others in another car were also injured.

“We thanked God every day for what we had,” said Danna Cusick. “We didn’t take it for granted.”

Life for Danna and George Cusick, the New York couple injured in the crash, included 51 years of marriage.

“We had a wonderful life,” she added.

Everything changed in January 2019. The couple was on vacation in Virginia Beach when they were involved in the head-on crash. Danna Cusick suffered broken bones. George Cusick suffered a severe brain injury that resulted in long-term hospitalization.

“I had a compound fracture in my wrist, a broken ulna on top of the broken wrist, four broken ribs and a broken sternum,” Danna Cusick said.

George Cusick now requires around-the-clock care at a nursing facility.

“George is gone,” Cusick said. “His legs don’t move. He cannot feed himself. He barely eats. He eats pureed foods that are fed to him.”

Prosecutors said Rushin tried to kill himself by causing the crash. His attorneys and mother have argued that wasn’t the case.

“We genuinely believe that the conviction and the sentence were totally inappropriate in this case,” added attorney Miriam Airington-Fisher. “This was a horrible accident. It was tragic. Many lives were affected by it.”

Airington-Fisher was fighting for Rushin to be released. She says there was no evidence that this was an intentional act.

With the partial pardon, the governor decided to reduce his sentence to 10 years on each conviction with seven years and five months, meaning Rushin could be released in spring 2021 after credit for time served while awaiting trial.

The governor adjusted his sentence to fit within state sentencing guidelines. The original sentence exceeded those.

“What Matthew was charged with and convicted with and sentenced with was just not supportive by the evidence with what his actions were,” Airington-Fisher said.

Rushin pleaded guilty, but his attorney believes the crash was due to a medical issue.

“We also know that Matthew’s health conditions can manifest seizures and blackouts and things like that,” Airington-Fisher added.

“Why was he driving?” Danna Cusick asked. “If all [of] the sudden this man was so flawed, why did you give him key? I know he had a valid driver’s license and so does a drunk driver, but you don’t have to give them the keys.”

Rushin will face some serious restrictions when he is released. He won’t be able to drive for the rest of his life, must undergo metal heath treatment and be on probation for the next ten years.

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