Prosecutor Who Sent Autistic Black Driver To Prison For Non-Fatal Car Crash Fights Back Against Critics

(A response to Prosecutor Stolle’s letter from Matthew’s mother has been added at the end of this blog.)

8-13-20) The prosecutor who sent Matthew Rushin to prison for causing a three-car, non-fatal accident is fighting back against complaints by Rushin’s parents and supporters that the young autistic black man was treated unfairly.

Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney Colin D. Stolle has told Virginia Governor Ralph Northam that pleas in social media and news accounts by Rushin’s supporters for a pardon are “so far removed from what actually took place” that the governor should ignore them.

“Numerous social media posts, and the pardon request itself, are filled with misinformation and inaccurate facts in an effort to gain some sort of clemency for Mr. Rushin,” Stolle stated in a letter dated July 9th, that was forwarded to me yesterday. He wrote his letter after more than a hundred Rushin’s supporters marched in protest of his imprisonment and Washington Post columnist Theresa Vargas publicized his plight.

On Monday, I posted a blog about Rushin and email interview with his parents under the headline “Autistic Black Man Sentenced To 50 Years in Prison For Non-Fatal Accident: Parents Outraged, Asking Va. Gov. To Pardon Him.”  It explained that Rushin had been sentenced to 50 years in prison, with all but ten years suspended if he didn’t get into trouble after he’d served his time, because a vehicle that he was driving crashed head-on into oncoming traffic on January 4, 2019, injuring four, two seriously. The police and prosecutor said Rushin was trying to kill himself and intentionally caused the crash, which is why he was initially charged with attempted murder and received an unusually long prison term for a non-fatal collision. (The state’s guidelines called for a maximum of 6 years and four months, but the sentencing judge ignored that recommendation and imposed the 50 year sentence.)

Demetrius and Lavern Rushin and supporters insist Rushin lost control of his car, say he wasn’t trying to end his life, and argue that the police officers who responded to the accident pressured him into making incriminating statements. His parents also have said that white defendants charged in more serious car accidents in Virginia Beach have been treated less harshly than their son.

Rushin was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome as a child and later experienced a traumatic brain injury that made him easy to manipulate, his parents noted.

In addition to his letter to Northam, Prosecutor Stolle delivered an internal affairs summary to the governor prepared by interim Virginia Beach Police Chief Anthony Zucaro, which found no fault by his officers or the prosecution.

At the heart of the dispute is whether Matthew Rushin was attempting to end his own life.

Matthew’s Parents, supporters and Matthew himself say he wasn’t trying to end his own life.

In an email, Matthew’s parents told me Matthew lost control of his car and was physically detained by two witnesses after he freed himself from the wreckage. The driver of one of the cars involved in the accident angrily yelled, “Are you fucking trying to kill yourself? Are you trying to kill us?” One of the police officers said he overheard Matthew say in response, “I was trying to killing myself.”

“Repeating words and phrases are how autistic people process language, especially when under stress,” his parents wrote. 

Matthew’s actions and statements at the accident were recorded on police body cams – more than 12 hours worth. A total of 17 officers came to the accident. Three of them were not wearing body cams. Those three are the ones who claimed, without supportive evidence, that they overheard Matthew say that he was trying to kill himself. This alleged statement was reportedly overheard minutes after Matthew climbed out of a vehicle where he’d just had a high speed collision – during which he had lost consciousness, his parents wrote.  During the 5 1/2 hours when he was interrogated by police he never wavered that this was not an attempt to kill himself, his parents said.

Prosecutor and Police Say He Was Trying To Kill Himself 

Here’s what the police summary concluded:

“A witness uninvolved with the crash as well as several responding officers made contact with Rushin immediately following the crash. When asked by the driver of (one of the cars involved) what Rushin was thinking, the civilian witness heard Rushin state, “I don’t know man, I was just trying to kill myself.” Officer G. Cordingley, while standing with Rushin, heard Rushin yell to the driver…”I was trying to kill myself.” Officer R. Nash also heard Rushin state, “I was trying to kill myself.” Officer M. Smith heard the driver…ask Rushin, “Who do you think you are? You almost killed me and my wife.” Officer Smith then heard Rushin reply, “I was trying to kill myself, okay?” Immediately, Officer Smith relayed that statement to Officer J. Cutin, and the relay of that information (the two officer’s conversation) was captured on police body worn camera just minutes after the crash. During a subsequent interview with Detective J. Hosand and Officer J. Dolida, Rushin stated multiple times, “I said well maybe I was trying to fucking kill myself.”

Previous Accident Cited By Prosecutor

Prosecutor Stolle

The summary cited “a similar vehicular crash” that happened January  6, 2017 when a car that Rushin was driving struck a metal gate at the entrance of a little league field where the roadway ended.

“Crash data …showed no attempt by Rushin to apply his brakes in the five seconds prior to the crash. In fact, Rushin’s speed escalated from 68 mph at five seconds before impact to 81 mph at impact…Rushin was hospitalized for approximately two weeks and suffered a traumatic brain injury. ”

The report states: “In the early morning hours of January 6, 2017, Rushin’s mother, Lavern Rushin, called Officer C. Daley and relayed that Matthew Rushin had attempted to kill himself in the January 6, 2017 single vehicle collision. In his interview with Detective Hosand and Officer Dolida, Rushin initially denied being involved in a previous accident. He eventually went on to admit that the characteristics from the crash that night were very similar to the characteristics of the 2017 crash, and it looks like he was trying to kill himself. He also stated, “I wanted to die,” “Maybe I do want to kill myself,” and “Maybe I was trying to kill myself.”

The summary sent to the governor concludes: “The investigation and prosecution of Matthew Rushin were thorough, professional, and just. The impact his crimes had on the victims in this case, especially the Cusicks (a family seriously injured during the accident), are severe. Rushin’s behavior has escalated from self-harming and self-destructive actions to actions that pose a severe danger to the community at large…If he is released, the public at large is at risk of becoming Rushin’s next victim.”

Comes Down To Who You Believe: Police or Parent Statements and Matthew

The family insists Matthew has been treated unjustly and was not trying to end his life. They lay out their case here: Were Any of the Actions of the Virginia Beach Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice System Against Matthew Rushin Hate Crimes

NeuroClastic website founder, Terra Vance, posted a four part series about Matthew:
You can read part 2 to learn about the Virginia Beach Police Department’s training for autism and mental health crises.
And read part 3 to watch interrogation of Matthew and learn more about how a plea deal was offered that took what was going to be a 10 year maximum sentence to a 50 year maximum.

More than 166,000 supporters have signed a petition urging Matthew’s release.

You can read the Commonwealth Prosecutor Stolle’s letter and the summary laying out the police version here: Letter to Governor Northam – Matthew Rushin


This is Matthew Rushin’s mom.  
Let’s dissect the statement from Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.
(1) I am battling cancer and they took an intimate conversation that Matthew and I were having and exploited it into their own narrative.  Matthew was downplaying his sentence to comfort me and to reassure me that he was going to be okay.  Please ask the City to RELEASE THE ENTIRE conversation.  
(2) There investigation of the crash of course was biased. As Neuroclastic has released, there is a forensic crash report which tells a different story.  Of course the VBPD coordinated an investigation to provide only evidence to support their theory. Did they also considered that Matthew had a seizure? No…. which brings me to my next response.
(3) Witnesses???? There were 14 Body Cam recording from beginning to end, why didn’t any of the Body Cam catch Matthew disclosing he was trying to kill himself? There were three Police Officers who ironically did not have Body Cam on that made statements to say Matthew was trying to kill him.  Matthew was on Body Cam from the beginning to end.
All the witnesses verified even the officers that Matthew was not coherent! So why wasn’t Matthew taken to the hospital?  Oh I will tell you why, because if he had been taken to the hospital, his medical records would have shown the seizures and traumatic brain injury.  The VBPD would have NEVER been able to charge Matthew. 
Witness :  Wentz: The man who came out yelling are you fucking trying to kill yourself…. repeatedly to Matthew …. confrontationally….. what do you think an autistic young man would do?  REPEAT….. It’s called ECHOLALIA for those who are not familiar with autistic traits. So those words that were repeated by Matthew was his conviction. VBPD took those words and made a car accident into a crime.  
Matthew was never taken to the hospital which is against the VBPD protocol for suicide! Suicide was their entire presentation. So why wasn’t Matthew taken to the hospital. ALL of the Officers in their statements acknowledged the fact that Matthew was clear minded. He had blood dripping down from his head.  But again a coordinated effort.  
The so called CIT Officer Hosang should be FIRED!  First, 12 hours of Autism training is not enough to qualify her to descalate a situation.  She as a CIT officer telling Matthew, she hopes to charge him with murder?  What type of training is that?  The entire interrogation video is online at She was trying to manipulate Matthew the entire time.  
Here is another point to this miscarriage of justice, all of those officers knew of Matthew’s accident two years ago, knew he was unconscious, but yet still allowed for his arrest. The Officer that found him unconscious two years ago, knew he had brain hemorrhaging was the arresting police office at this accident. Where is the compassion? Coordinated effort and racial profiling. All of the officers were promoted because of the 50 years sentence.  They filled their yearly quota.  
LASTLY, Let’s discuss Matthew’s lawyer who the commonwealth mentioned in their statement.  During Matthew case, she positioned herself to be selected to become a Judge which she was selected after Matthew’s sentencing hearing. We should have gone to trial. More emphasis should have been placed on Matthew’s medical history.  The fact that Matthew had an extensive medical history should have been presented.  We were naive and trusted the system.  We were bullied into silence. His lawyer basically told us that if we went to the media the prosecution who take it out on Matthew. He would suffer a worst consequences.  We did not find out that she was selected to become a Judge until after the sentencing hearing.  Is this why she manipulated Matthew into taking a plea and not fighting for him?  We discovered that her firm has made donations to the prosecution’s election campaign….. now that is ethically wrong.
I will continue to fight for the freedom of my son!  I will continue to expose VBPD for all their lies! I am not going to be that mother or mama bear to cry wolf! I want the world to know about the corrupt VBPD and Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. 
Our evidence and supporting documentation was submitting to the Governor’s Office. 
And this from a writer who has been deeply involved in this ongoing story.
I’m Terra Vance, CEO of NeuroClastic. I’ve been working daily with Lavern on Matthew’s case.
Thank you for your original article on Matthew. The recent one, though, doesn’t capture the facts. The real story with Stolle’s statement was full of blatant lies, distortion of facts, and ableist canards. Matthew had one self-harm incident that no one called a suicide attempt except Stolle. Matthew didn’t remember the accident in 2017. He remembered getting in the car, a flash of tree, and waking up days later. This is consistent with what everyone should safely assume, and which countless experts have co-signed, is undiagnosed seizure disorder. Both accidents were seizures. We have letters from countless doctors, neurologists, psychologists, and other professionals. There is even what appears to be a seizure in the interrogation footage. (First link below)
Cops asked him twice that night if he were epileptic.
Here is everything you need and the most important story you have not yet told:
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

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