*On the Thursday, April 1 edition of “Tamron Hall,” Matthew Rushin, a young man with autism, opened up about the difficult ramifications following the 2019 life-altering car accident that led to an unprecedented 10-year prison sentence. The harsh sentencing ignited the viral “Free Matthew Rushin’” campaign that dominated local and national headlines.
Rushin was joined by his mother Lavern for their first joint television interview, taking place just two days after his early release resulting from a conditional pardon from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. During the emotional interview, Matthew recalled the night of the accident and detailed the two years he spent behind bars. The mother-son duo also opened up about their long-awaited reunion, and Lavern weighed in on the false allegations that her son’s accident was a suicide attempt.
Matthew on his experience with law enforcement at the scene of the accident:
“It felt like I was talking to mannequins, like in all sense of that word… they stood there staring at me. And it was almost as if they already knew what I was being charged with before I even started speaking to anyone.”
Matthew on his time spent in prison:
“The best that I could do was stay true to myself and show people that I’m not the individual they paint me to be.” He continued, “They painted me as someone who is vindictive and malicious and someone who I guess satiates their inner demon by harming others and I show the world, everyone, that I’m not that person.”
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Matthew on his hopes for the other victims involved in the car accident:
“I pray for them every night. Although they might have rather negative opinions towards me, I still pray for them because we’re all God’s children. And regardless of what’s happened to us, we all deserve to live. And I’m more than grateful that they lived. And I hope they continue to live. I hope one day [George Cusick] returns to how he used to be.”
Lavern on her reaction when she first heard about Matthew’s accident:
“Well, when I looked at the phone, I didn’t recognize the phone number, but I answered it because I was trying to get ahold of him. And I answered it, and it was an officer and he said, ‘Ms. Rushin, Matthew Rushin has been in a car accident.’ I said, ‘Well, can I speak to him? What happened?’ They weren’t giving me any information. The only information that they gave me was where the location was, and my heart just dropped. If they weren’t giving me any indication of what had happened, I was thinking, ‘Well, you know, is he alive?’ And I did disclose to the officer at that time, I said, ‘Matthew is autistic. And if I’m understanding what you’re telling me, he’s gonna need somebody there.’ I said, ‘Do you realize two years ago he was in an accident, and he was in a coma? And he’s probably you know, having PTSD from that and not being able to communicate.’ So when I got that phone call, I didn’t know what to say, what to do.”
Lavern on the false allegations that Matthew’s accident was a suicide attempt:
“So that night, when Matthew came out of the vehicle, there was a man yelling at Matthew, ‘Are you f**ing trying to kill yourself?’ And one of Matthew’s [characteristics] is called echolalia, and with the echolalia, Matthew repeated, the ‘kill myself.’ And so that actually led to the narrative of what the Commonwealth of the City of Virginia Beach put across to the media that Matthew was trying to commit suicide, but he wasn’t. 17 officers, 14 body cam videos, Matthew was on body cam from beginning to end. And nowhere in there did Matthew ever say ‘I wanted to commit suicide.’” She continued, “If they had done their job and followed through with the training that they got and the training that the [Crisis Intervention Team] officers received, I think that they would have seen that his autism played a huge part in this.”
Lavern on her fight to reform the criminal justice system:
“Race played a very big part of his sentencing and the way that this came about. His sentencing was above state guidelines, regardless of how you look at it, and so my fight was to bring attention to the trends that have been happening here in Virginia, and the harsh sentencing that comes about to the mental health community here in Virginia Beach, or in Virginia…In Matthew’s story, he has brought a lot of reform to our criminal justice system, especially on the mental health side.” She continued, “And then again, the night of sentencing, I came home and I sat there and I said, ‘Okay, now it’s my turn. Now it’s my turn to fight for him. Now it’s my turn to get his story out.’ We were bullied into silence from the very beginning as his lawyer and the prosecutor basically said, ‘If I came to the media, that Matthew would suffer worse consequences.’”
Lavern on how she prepared her son for independence keeping his disability in mind:
“After he hit 18, we kind of just kind of helped him understand that if anybody was, you know, to approach him, if he was stopped by law enforcement…the sad part about it is that he grew up with half of these officers here in Virginia Beach because his cousin was a sergeant for our area, so a lot of the officers knew him. So we trusted the officers and we always kind of figured that if he was stopped by an officer and he disclosed that he was autistic, they would know how to interact with him. But that night, it was like all their training went out the door. No one wanted to even recognize and acknowledge that he was autistic. That was not even part of their investigation at all. Because if they had, he would have been taken to the hospital. Matthew was never taken to the hospital. Never.”
Lavern on how she feels having her son Matthew back home following his release:
“I’m overjoyed. I have so [many] emotions happening all at once, and to know that it’s been such a long journey just to get him home has been, it’s been gratifying when I look at him.”
Following are highlights for Tamron Hall for the remainder of the week. Please note: lineup is subject to change.
Friday, April 2: A candid conversation with women on how they choose to age. Guests include supermodels Paulina Porizkova and Christie Brinkley; writer, director, and producer Justine Bateman; and women from all walks of life who are unapologetically choosing to face aging in different
source: Tamron Hall