VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A man who is serving 10 years for hitting another vehicle head-on — in what prosecutors called a suicide attempt — has been granted a conditional and partial pardon by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
The pardon alters the sentence for Matthew Rushin, 22, so he is set to be released from the Department of Corrections’ custody no earlier than spring 2021.
“[The pardon] is contingent upon Mr. Rushin agreeing to a number of strict requirements, including never possessing a firearm, not operating a vehicle, and never contacting the victims or their families,” a spokeswoman for Northam’s office said Monday.
The case gained national attention this year and resulted in calls for Rushin’s release.
Rushin was sentenced Nov. 6, 2019 to 50 years in prison with 40 suspended — leaving a 10-year active term — on two counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run resulting in personal injury.
The sentence was higher than state sentencing guidelines, which recommended no more than six years and four months in prison.
The crash caused by Rushin happened on First Colonial Road on Jan. 4, 2019 and injured four people. One man who was visiting the area from New York with his wife suffered a severe brain injury that resulted in long-term hospitalization.
Northam’s pardon reduces the sentence to 10 years on each conviction with seven years and five months suspended on each to fit within the state sentencing guidelines. The sentences will run concurrently, and Rushin will receive credit for time served while awaiting trial.
The reduced sentence means Rushin will likely be released next year, his attorney said.
“INCREDIBLE NEWS! Governor Northam GRANTED Matthew Rushin a pardon. Matthew will be released and reunited with his family in early 2021. We are overcome by the outpouring of support from the community, autism and disability advocates, legislators, and concerned people from all over the world. On behalf of Matthew and his family, we thank the Governor and the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and Probation and Parole for their thorough review of the case.”Airington Law, Rushin’s attorneys
In July, 10 On Your Side reported that Rushin’s mother had gathered new evidence regarding her son’s case and sent it to the governor’s office with the hope of getting a pardon for her son.
She said the crash was unintentional. Her son has autism and was pressured to plead guilty because he feared going to trial, she said.
During court proceedings, prosecutors said that when officers arrived at the scene of the crash, Rushin said he was trying to kill himself. Investigation revealed he was driving about 65 mph and did not apply his brakes before the crash. He tried to run following the collision, but several bystanders held him down until police arrived.
Also in July, Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle sent a five-page letter to the governor outlining the case in efforts to keep Matthew Rushin behind bars.
At the time, Stolle said the pardon request didn’t contain accurate information.
According to the governor’s office, Rushin’s pardon includes several other restrictions, including:
- The Virginia Parole Board must approve his “home plan,” and a parole officer will supervise him for five years.
- He must participate in supervised mental health treatment, counseling, and a substance abuse evaluation.
- He may not drive for the rest of his life. (This can be petitioned to a judge, however, after 10 years.)
- He may not own a firearm or have contact with the victims in the crash.
If Rushin violates any terms of his pardon in the next 10 years, he could be arrested and incarcerated for the remainder of the commuted sentence of 10 years.
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