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The Autism Spectrum According to Autistic People

Autism neurodiversity

A Response to Colin Stolle's Letter to Governor Northam About Matthew Rushin

Only the facts:
Welcome to the NeuroClastic
court of public opinion.

Matthew Rushin was sentenced to 50 years with 40 suspended for a car accident. Nearly a quarter of a million people have petitioned Governor Ralph Northam to ask for his immediate release.

In response to the public outrage, the Commonwealth Attorney of Virginia Beach wrote a letter asking that Matthew Rushin not be pardoned. Stolle accused those calling for Matthew’s release of being removed from the facts.

Here are the facts.

The Cover of Colin Stolle's Letter to Governor Northam

Re: Matthew Rushin
Dear Governor Northam,

I am aware that you have received multiple inquiries, as well as a pardon request, related to the
Matthew Rushin case. Unfortunately, the 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.

-Colin Stolle

In order to remove any reasonable doubt, and to demonstrate the facts with substantiating evidence, this page will explore the truth of Matthew Rushin’s case using only quoted evidence from court transcripts and transcripts supplied by the Virginia Beach Police Department.

 

Understanding the facts of this case is extremely important to ensuring that justice is obtained for Matthew Rushin and for the Cusick family who were badly injured in the collision.

 

Exercising curiosity and humility, and sticking to the facts, will prevent justice from requiring years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, severe trauma, and devastating loss. Justice and truth are inextricable.

As you know, Commonwealth’s Attorneys try cases in a court of law and not the court of public opinion. However, the public dialog surrounding this case has become so far removed from what actually took place that I find it necessary to send you this letter and attachment.

-Colin Stolle

It was NeuroClastic who started the “court of public opinion” social media dialogue, and in the excerpt of this article.

 

Matthew Rushin: Did Virginia Beach PD suspect seizure and hide it?

We are not figures of political influence, and our only recourse to hold accountable the systems and persons responsible for denying due process to Matthew Rushin is to leverage the power of the voting public.

 

Matthew Rushin was not tried in a court of law. He was coerced into taking a plea deal without an advocate present. Because he was very young (20), distressed, and autistic, and because of the way his options were presented, Matthew Rushin accepted a plea deal and forfeited his access to a fair trial. 

When a prosecutor stacks up terrifying and unjust charges against an accused person– like the two class 2 felony charges for aggravated malicious wounding for a car accident, then refusing to accept a plea is almost certainly a life sentence.

 

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office played a bluff on Matthew Rushin with those charges, and because he is autistic and had no experience with the legal justice system, he did not know to call that bluff. 

Aggravated malicious wounding is in the same category as murder in the first degree. Only capital murder, punishable by death, is a more serious charge. The Commonwealth’s Attorney of Virginia Beach gave Matthew two of those charges, plus a felony hit-and-run with injury for an accident Matthew didn’t cause.

To have two counts of aggravated malicious wounding, Matthew would have had to have known there were two people in the vehicle he hit. He didn’t know that, of course, as it was dark, and raining, and he was not fully conscious. 

Before altering any decision by the Virginia Beach Circuit Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals, it’s important that you have an accurate account of Matthew Rushin’s actions on January 4, 2019, as well as the subsequent investigation and prosecution of this matter.

This page is here to explore segments of Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle’s letter to Governor Northam. Below, you will find quoted excerpts from the Stolle’s letter with factual, objective responses substantiated by only the facts. 

On January 4, 2019, Rushin, operating a 2007 Chevy Tahoe, struck an occupied vehicle leaving the parking lot of Total Wine at the intersection of Laskin Road and First Colonial Road. His vehicle struck the front driver’s side of the victim’s vehicle and Rushin fled the scene. As he fled at a high rate of speed through the Total Wine parking lot and onto First Colonial Road, he entered the unoccupied left turn lane and ran the red light crossing Laskin Road. Rushin then made a U-turn, crossed through an empty paved median, and drove into oncoming traffic. He intentionally struck a Ford Explorer driven by George Cusick and occupied by George’s wife, Danna, who was in the front passenger seat. Rushin’s vehicle violently rotated, ultimately causing a Honda Element to impact it from the rear. The driver and passenger in the Honda Element were transported to the hospital where they were treated and released. Danna and George Cusick suffered serious injuries, and George will suffer from his severe injuries for the rest of his life.
colin stolle clown
Colin Stolle
cOMMONWEALTH'S ATTORNEY, vIRGINIA bEACH

Let's break that into parts.

The vehicle mentioned here, the one leaving Total Wine, was a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta driven by Jason Graham. The only thing mentioned about this accident in court, at all, was that “Rushin struck a moving vehicle.”

That moving vehicle was at a stop sign, though. That means that the other driver, Jason Graham, was at fault.

Graham was confident enough that he would go unchallenged in court that he testified multiple times that the 2001 Jetta was a “brand new car” that was only “two months old.”

But Matthew maintained that Jason Graham hit him. From VBPD’s body cam transcript summary:

Rushin is approached by Officer Daley and Officer Dolida. Officer Daley introduces himself and Rushin says “can I please talk to someone.” Daley asks if he needs rescue. Rushin says no. Rushin states so a car hit me, I was turning, and he was turning, and he came into my front left bumper. […]

Then, Rushin says it again. Also from VBPD body cam transcript summary:
 
Rushin states I was turning into the parking lot where Panera is (by Total Wine) near Chipotle, Dairy Queen, and Chic fil A. […] Rushin says he turns onto the service road and is turning into the parking lot when a Volvo hits him. He states; it hits my front left. Rushin says so I stop and “I look at him and he’s not backing up, he is not going anywhere, so I freak out because I thought he was just going to pull off [to a safe
location out of traffic, to exchange insurance information]”.
 
And another time:
 
Dolida asks “where did the other car come from?” Rushin says they were coming this way (towards him). Dolida asks where he impacted them. Rushin says “I did not hit them”. Rushin says “our both front lefts collided. I don’t even think it was that bad it was just a little chunk of his front bumper”. Dolida said “did he stop at that point?” Rushin responds, “Yeah he was stopped, he was still stopped”. Rushin says he sat there and waited to see where [the other driver] was going to go. He said he moved forward a little bit to see if [the other driver] would follow him because they were still in the entrance/exit area.
 
Matthew explained multiple times that Jason Graham hit him. A competent person who understood what he was signing would not have agreed to being charged with “hit-and-run with injury.”
 
There are four levels of penalties for hit and run in Virginia:
1. Class 4 misdemeanor with no max jail time
2. Class 1 misdemeanor with a max penalty of 12 months
3. Class 6 felony with a max penalty of 5 years
4. Class 5 felony with a max penalty of 10 years
 
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office would not have been able to argue that Matthew caused that accident, that Mr. Graham was injured, or that his testimony was credible. He was moving at a stop sign. Graham perjured himself in court, and that went unchallenged. Matthew was sentenced to ten years for an accident caused by someone else.

Actually, Matthew and four witnesess stated that the light had just turned green. Matthew was going to turn there but realized he couldn’t make a U-turn. He the took advantage of the fact that he could re-enter traffic when the light turned green because he was already moving when the other cars had been stopped at the red light.

By no means is this a wise way to re-enter traffic, but it’s also not the same as intentionally running a red light. Every motorist has had instances wherein they have had to “gun it” momentarily to get into or around traffic. Matthew was not driving defensively and could have been given a traffic citation for this maneuver and for speeding. Yet, his driving did not become a danger to others until he made that U-turn and lost consciousness.

In the hearing on March 8, the man who said Matthew “ran through the light,” Thor Wentz, was asked for clarifcation by Matthew’s defense:

Glaubke: Do you recall what that light was when the car went through there?Wentz: No, I do not.

Why did Wentz think Matthew ran a red light? Someone must have told him that was what happened. That is called witness coaching.

You left out some pretty relevant information, here, Stolle. Matthew thought that he was coming out of the U-turn and ended up in oncoming traffic. You conveniently forgot to mention that he drove a full quarter of a mile between the U-turn and point of impact.

Or that he lost consciousness.

Matthew said 21 times (at least, according to the documents that I have) that he was making the U-turn when he saw LED lights right in front of him (George Cusick’s headlights).

 

Let’s talk about how

Matthew Rushin Lost consciousness

Matthew drove away from the fender bender in the shopping center parking lot after the man who hit him refused to vacate the intersection where he sat and made phone calls. Matthew drove about two blocks, then made a U-turn to come back. He believed that somehow, as he made the U-turn, he lost control and ended up in oncoming traffic.

What he didn’t realize was that he’d traveled over a quarter of a mile between the U-turn and the collision.

matthew rushin photographer wrongfully accused black autistic man
matthew rushin
VBPD body cam transcript summary

On ending up in oncoming traffic...

"Little Volvo coup. I stopped then I started freaking out because the car wasn’t pulling over. They weren’t backing up to park anywhere, so I started freaking out and I left the parking lot and I got on to the road and I was gonna turn, and then the light turned green so I decided to go straight. So I got in the front of the Camry that was driving straight and I got to the end where the overpass was and I made a U‑turn there and there was a sign that says you can’t make a U‑turn there. As I was coming at the U‑turn I lost control of the vehicle and that’s when I came at the oncoming traffic."

Statements from matthew that night:

More from Stolle's letter to Governor Northam

Quotes by Colin Stolle with responses under the quotes

Matthew struck a Ford Explorer, and that was devastating for George and Danna Cusick and their family. The Cusicks have suffered and continue to suffer due to this accident that they did nothing to provoke or cause. They absolutely deserve justice.

However, there is zero evidence that the collision was intentional. In fact, NeuroClastic consulted with three forensic crash reconstruction engineers, and all three said that nothing about the accident looked like a suicide attempt. They all three said pedal misapplication, citing different forensic quantifiers as evidence of this hypothesis.

We commissioned a review of the evidence from one crash engineer. You can read it here.

The full article can be viewed here:

Matthew Rushin: Body Cam Footage and Forensic Data

The reconstruction expert had 35 years of experience and a 30+ page resume. He pointed out that most vehicular suicides are single car, and they drive into solid objects like concrete walls, large trees, etc.

Matthew made a U-turn right before going under an underpass with a concrete wall. He also could have exited onto the interstate where he could get up to speed if he were serious about suicide.

Why would someone cut their momentum in half right before a suicide attempt by making a U-turn? They wouldn’t.

Further, Matthew was steering away at the point of impact. He didn’t hit them head-on.

His vehicle rotated “violently”?

Are you projecting malicious intention onto the vehicle as well? The vehicle had exactly as much conscious malice as Matthew had when the collision happened.

Rushin was not wearing his seatbelt because he was preparing to exchange insurance information with Jason Graham, but Graham sat in the intersection, illegally, talking on his cell phone.

This could have been brought up in court if Matthew had counsel that cared at all to see him get justice.

Here’s what actually happened.

Rushin comes to and realizes his airbags have deployed. He can’t open doors and is pinned and confused, screaming for someone to cut him out. He is pinned in the crumbled dash and extricating himself, he loses his shoes. No doors open. He wrestles through the airbags and climbs out of back of his SUV, dazed and disoriented. It’s January, raining, frigid, and he’s barefoot. He doesn’t remember the collision but sees the devastation and knows he caused it.

Here are words used to describe Matthew at the time he made the statement Stolle used to pin a murder attempt and aggravated malicious wounding onto Rushin:

agitated, a little in hysterics, distraught, he didn’t seem like he was all there, he wasn’t really answering very well, his speech was a little slurred, disturbed-like mentally at that moment, like maybe shock, he wasn’t receiving what the police officer was telling him, he was moving his head around a lot, flailing his arms quite a bit, wasn’t receiving information (from bystander holding him and telling him to calm down and suggesting he lay down), it’s like he didn’t hear me, impression that even when the officer came up he was not understanding what was being communicated to him by witness or officer.

It’s extremely relevant that Matthew was clearly not in his right mind, not making sense, not coherent, and thoroughly confused. It’s also relevant that Matthew was being restrained by two strangers. Autistic people do not do well in restraint.

Stolle stated that the driver of the Element, Thor Wentz, “asked Matthew what he was thinking.” Thor Wentz, the one reliable and accurate witness to this statement, whose story remained unchanged, was honest that he yelled at Matthew and swore at him. He admitted every time to using the word “fuck” or “fucking.”

That’s fine, of course. Mr. Wentz had a very valid reason to be angry. But, it’s relevant because Matthew was being restrained by strangers, he is autistic, he’s confused, he’s distraught, and a man was yelling at him, storming towards him, and swearing.

It’s relevant that Stolle paints Matthew as disrespectful in language, spelling out the word “fucking,” and portrays Thor Wentz as merely asking a question. This evidentiary acrobatics belies what actually happened and makes Matthew seem as if he was indignant to someone he had just intentionally harmed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s what Officer G. Cordingley said of that incident:

While we were — as soon as I got out I approached them to see if they needed any assistance. At that point a white male, who I now know to be Mr. Wentz, came up and asked Mr. Rushin if he was the driver of the red Tahoe, to which Mr. Rushin stated, Yes. At that point Mr. Wentz yelled, You could have fucking killed us.

Here’s what Wentz said:

And I walked around the back of the vehicle just in time to see Rushin come out of the back of his SUV, and I engaged him. I confronted him. I said, you know, What the F is wrong with you? You could have killed people. His response to that was, I want to be dead. I should be dead, or words to that effect.

Everyone relayed what Thor Wentz said with at least a few swear words. Thor Wentz, the man who asked Matthew what he said, said that Matthew said, “I want to be dead, I should be dead, or something to that effect.”

Thor Wentz’s wife, Woanlan Fang, said this:

And at the same time I also heard a young man crying, like really, and say, I want to die. I want to die. I want to die.

So, maybe Matthew said he wanted to die, maybe he said he was trying to kill himself. What no one said that Matthew said was a swear word. Only Matthew thought he used a swear word.

So why did Matthew think that he said something with the word “fucking” in it? The answer to that question is the whole crux of this case.

When Matthew was in the interrogation room, alone but on camera, he was talking to himself when he said:

Hmm. You’re telling me that I want to kill myself? F’real? Naw. Yeah, someone said “kill.” Twice. Trying to remember what I said.

You can watch that on video here:

When an autistic person repeats something they have just heard, that is called “echolalia.” It is one of the most common traits of autism, and it is done as a way to help process auditory stimuli when in a state of overwhelm.

There are several types of echolalia. The one that is most common in adults is called mitigated echolalia, or repeating words in communication but changing some elements of it, like reversing the pronouns (you for I) or changing a question to a statement.

Further, echolalia is associated with pronoun reversal  (also known as pronomial reversal or personal pronoun reversal).

Matthew’s speech following the accident is full of mitigated echolalia, pronoun reversal, and question-to-statement conversion. Often, he answers questions based on what he expected would be asked, then immediately corrects himself.

Like here:

Officer Dolida Says so you spun around the wrong way? Rushin says yes. Rushin says “no, no, no I made the U-turn I was driving the correct direction so I was out of control, and then I realized I was out of control, and I was in oncoming traffic.”

Notice he starts with “yes,” then “no, no, no.” He does this a lot. He also has many other markers of atypical speech consistent with aphasia.

Matthew regularly refers to himself as “he” instead of “I” in the transcripts. Mitigated echolalia is associated with left temporal-frontal lobe brain damage, epilepsy, autism, traumatic brain injury, TIA, and stroke.

Matthew didn’t remember what Thor Wentz said to him. He says he didn’t know why he said what he said. It “popped out.” But any speech language pathologist or autistic person or neurologist would have recognized Matthew’s atypical echolalic speech as being typical of the post ictal phase following a seizure or as being sensorily overwhelmed and in a battle against selective mutism. Matthew has diagnosed expressive and receptive language disorder and auditory processing disorder.

Perhaps if Stolle would release the body camera footage, this could be demonstrated more clearly.

Of all the horrible things Stolle manipulated to paint Matthew as a deviant and terrible human, among the worst was:

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 that it looks like he was trying to kill himself.

Here’s what the transcripts say:

Rushin said yeah, denies it has ever happened other than that, and denies having crashed his car before. He then says he doesn’t like to talk about that accident. Dolida tells Rushin that he was there at that crash and asks him to tell him about that. Rushin said it was “2017: January the first week”. He said he “doesn’t like talking about it because to him it doesn’t exist” but he does see why Dolida brought it up.

In a clear and obvious way, this isn’t denying something and “eventually” admitting to the truth. This is Matthew immediately correcting himself like he has had to do scores of times during this interview process because he’s autistic with a traumatic brain injury and has auditory processing disorder.

If this sounds far-fetched, then let’s look at this video where Matthew Rushin appears to have a seizure in the interrogation room:

We reached out to and retained the expert opinion of a board certified clinical neurologist and psychologist with more than 40 years of experience in the field.

After reviewing records, body cam transcript summaries, and the interrogation video, here is what he had to say:

I was shocked by the failure of the police, who believed that Matthew was suicidal, to fail to have him emergently evaluated. I think they were incorrect in assuming he was suicidal but are on their own account negligent for not having him brought to a hospital and evaluated. Also, given that he revealed that he was autistic and believing him to be suicidal, to subject him to hours of interrogation (especially without a trusted family member or professional present) would only increase any suicidal impulse. Either they felt he was not suicidal and were pressuring a “confession” from an autistic person, who has little in the way of psychological defenses to such an interrogation, or they were cravenly negligent in not getting psychiatric evaluation and stabilization of a suicidal individual.

He went on to say that,

Based on the clinical descriptions of episodes of visual loss and headache, Matthew’s presentation is suggestive of post traumatic migraine. He develops spells of staring and disconnection from his surroundings. Such spells are consistent with fronto-temporal epileptic events, which are known sequela of TBI and brain damage from a traumatic intracranial hemorrhage. 

Matthew was found at the scene to be constantly bobbing his head, not in control of his arms/folding them over and over, etc. 

You can read about Matthew the night of the accident with quoted evidence following the trajectory of a seizure here:

Matthew Rushin: Did Virginia Beach PD suspect seizure and hide it?

You can read about his loss of consciousness here:

First Statement from Matthew on Body Cam:Officers knew he lost consciousness

Matthew was found to be saying, “I want to die” over and over, a behavior known as palilalia. You can read about echolalia and palilalia as related to seizures here.

This is, frankly, self-incrimination and not a defense of Detective Hosang’s behavior.

No one can understand the complexity of autistic people by taking a single “Disability Awareness for Law Enforcement” course.

Officer Hosang used deceptive interrogation techniques and attempted to emotionally manipulate Matthew into saying something incriminating; however, Matthew maintained his story the entire time. 

Further, knowing he was autistic, ADHD, and had a traumatic brain injury, Detective Jessica Hosang continued to interrogate Matthew without an advocate, attorney, or parent to help him understand his rights and avoid entrapment. The first thing in the Virginia police “training for the trainers” supplied by the ARC of Virginia for interacting with autistic people is that they will likely not understand their Miranda rights or right to legal counsel.

Police officers are not neurologists, psychologists, medical doctors, nor experts in developmental disabilities. This is why Matthew Rushin should have been evaluated by a neurologist. Yet, he was denied access to attend the three appointments his mother had scheduled for him and denied bond, despite having never harmed anyone before in his life. 

It’s okay if police are unqualified to make complex medical determinations, but it’s not okay to know someone is autistic, to observe aphasic speech, to observe obvious disorientation and confusion following a serious crash, and to base an entire case on a single instance of disoriented echolalia. 

Whether it was Colin Stolle as the prosecutor, or his brother Ken Stolle as the sheriff, whomever disrupted all attempts at getting Matthew medical care is guilty of not observing due diligence in determining if Matthew was guilty of a crime as opposed to determining if he had a medical event.

Now, Matthew is experiencing transient blindness and other  medical symptoms that indicate he is in serious need of medical care. These symptoms further substantiate that a medical condition is a more likely culprit than a malicious attempt at hurting someone from someone who has never hurt anyone a day in his life.

"It’s important to review Rushin’s similar vehicular crash that occurred on January 6, 2017. Rushin struck the metal gate at the entrance of a little league field where the roadway ended. After striking a parking lot divider and rolling multiple times, Rushin’s 2012 Mazda 3 came to rest against a tree."

-Colin Stolle, Commonwealth's Attorney, in his letter to Governor Ralph Northam RE: Matthew Rushin

Matthew had a similar accident in January of 2017. The circumstances surrounding that accident were curious for the same reasons– he accelerated into an accident he couldn’t remember. That instance left Matthew in a coma with two collapsed lungs and traumatic brain injury.

Colin Stolle decided to infer that this was a suicide attempt.

No one else said that. Ever.

What Matthew said was that he lost control during the 2017 accident because all he remembered was getting in the car, a flash of a tree, then waking up in the hospital days later. In the hospital, it was discovered that Matthew had a cyst on his brain. Both accidents could have been the result of seizures, acute confusional migraine, or another neurological condition consistent with Matthew’s behavior.

Colin Stolle

Dr. Keenan’s report and testimony addressed Rushin’s diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Disorder), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, traumatic brain injury, and anxiety. Dr. Keenan also included in his report and testimony information about a second suicide attempt by Rushin on July 23, 2018. Rushin cut his wrists with a razor and was admitted to Eastern State Hospital as a result.

Colin Stolle

Virginia Beach Commonwealth's attorney, in his letter to Governor Northam, RE: Matthew Rushin

Matthew rushin(2)

Accusing Matthew Rushin of Attempting Suicide

What did Dr. Keenan actually say in about Matthew Rushin?

Of the 2017 accident, Michael DeFricke, assigned to the case by Colin Stolle, questioned Dr. Keenan at the sentencing hearing on November 6, 2019:

DeFricke: –at the time? Obviously it had Significant there were significant injuries related to it. Did you note any evidence of suicidal thoughts or behaviors during that accident?

Keenan: During that accident?

DeFricke: Right, that caused it.

Keenan: I’m not aware of any.

In his summary report offered to the court, Dr. Keenan noted, “Matthew Rushin denied being depressed or suicidal at that time.”
 
Nowhere, did Keenan call Matthew’s single, isolated incident of self-harm a suicide attempt. Neither has Matthew. Ever.
 
Matthew addressed that incident during the interrogation to Detectives Hosang and Dolida (below):

[Rushin] shows his wrists (cutting scars visible on camera) and Says this is from August when he and his mom got into it. He admits he did that to himself. He said he was trying to hurt himself, but wasn’t trying to kill himself. He was just angry because his mother was not understanding him. Rushin said it made him upset and he did not know how to get that anger and frustration out.

Matthew Rushin

And 86% of autistic people, because that is the percentage of autistics who self-harm or have self-harmed

86% of Autistic people self-harm or have in the past. The name for this phenomenon is NSSI, or NON-SUICIDAL self harm. Non-suicidal means not an attempt at suicide. It is an attempt at self-regulation.

Self Harm is not an indication of suicidality
When autistic people self harm, it is due to sensory dysregulation, which feels like a storm in the mind. It functions as a way to stop the storm, causing the brain to release endorphins that work like morphine to calm the mind. It is the same phenomenon as a "runner's high."
Click Here
Self-Harm Serves a Neurobiological Purpose
"And the fact that physical and emotional pain perceptions use many of the same neural circuits provides those who self-harm with a curious ‘out’. They’ve learned that, while the pain peaks with self-injury, it then comes down the other side. The physical pain lessens – as does the emotional pain."
Click Here
Self-Harm Functions to Reduce Stress
"Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. It's usually a way of coping with or expressing overwhelming emotional distress. Some autistic people may self-harm as a response to anxiety, stress or because they find it very difficult to communicate their feelings."
Click Here
Self-harm is not a threat to society
"The motivations for nonsuicidal self-injury are unclear, but self-injury may be a way to reduce tension or negative feelings, a way to resolve interpersonal difficulties, self-punishment for perceived faults, or a plea for help."
Click Here
Self harm is associated with different sensory thresholds.
Sensory processing disorder is caused by atypical connectivity in the brain. Some sensory systems are hypo-responsive and some are hyper-responsive. People who engage in NSSI tend to be people with a high pain tolerance and high sensory thresholds, as is common in ADHD and autism.
Click Here
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Matthew Rushin did not attempt suicide. Not three times, not two times, not one time.

What did happen is that Matthew became overwhelmed in a manner that was out of character, potentially because he has a cyst on his brain, he’s ADHD and autistic, and has an undiagnosed neurological condition that is causing transient blindness, severe headaches, spinning, vertigo, and partial loss of consciousness.

What is dangerous is having untreated seizures. Adequate medical care would keep seizures under control. 

Historically, even recently, both autism and epilepsy were seen as demonic possession and those with either condition were institutionalized and submitted to treatments like exorcisms. 

Prison will never treat neurological conditions and can only serve to exacerbate them. Epilepsy and migraines are easily controlled by medications. Matthew Rushin needs medical care, not prison.

While Matthew remains in prison for an undiagnosed medical condition (and for diagnosed medical conditions), everyone with a disability following this case is internalizing that the world prefers to have them locked up or erased as opposed to having access to medical care.

Is this the America we want? Is this the Virginia Beach Colin Stolle was elected to serve and protect?

Autistic people are everywhere in society, and they are far more likely to be the victims of crime than to be the perpetrators of crime.

"Rushin’s behavior has escalated from self-harming and self-destructive actions to actions that pose a severe danger to the community at large. A number of people became victims of Rushin’s intentional, malicious conduct on January 4, 2019. If he is released, the public at large is at risk of becoming Rushin’s next victim."
Colin Stolle
Prosecutor, Virginia Beach

In this era of police reform, Black Lives Matter, and the NeuroDiversity Movement, wherein racial and disability justice are becoming more prevalent in the national conversation and marginalized people are demanding change, it is imperative that those in positions of power and privilege explore and examine their role in perpetuating injustice, then take active and purposeful steps to undo the harm they have caused and prevent it from happening in the future.

Colin Stolle has had ample time to explore the information published about Matthew Rushin’s case and look at ways wherein his biases might have contributed to a miscarriage of justice. It’s understandable that a lawyer not understand neuroscience or autism. But instead of reflecting on information made available to him, Stolle doubled down, insisting that unless Matthew Rushin– who has never engaged in a single act of aggression against anyone— remains in prison, others will become a victim of his “intentional, malicious” conduct.

Aggravated Malicious Wounding, 2 counts (mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years), and 2nd degree attempted murder (maximum 10 years), 1 count. What was the prosecution's evidence of "probable cause"?

From the hearing on March 8, 2019. Officer G. Cordingley testified that Thor Wentz yelled at Matthew, and until that no one had used the word “kill.”

Here (below) is what Daniel Ramos, the second bystander to restrain Matthew, had to say:

And this is what Michael DeFricke, the assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, did with Matthew’s response:

Even if someone in law enforcement is not familiar with echolalia, pronoun reversal, autistic overwhelm, or even epilepsy, there are protocols for determining if someone needs crisis intervention or medical attention. Anyone who has to be restrained by people because they are flailing and their head is moving uncontrollably, who is incoherent following a serious accident, and especially whom you believe to be actively suicidal needs medical and psychiatric evaluation.

But this one sentence, this one echoed sentence from an autistic person in distress, was all it took to find probable cause.

But Colin Stolle told Wavy News the same thing that VBPD told Washington Post:

If it’s not considered a mental crisis when an autistic, ADHD person with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, confusion, flailing, and “in hysterics” is believed to have just driven his vehicle into oncoming traffic on purpose, then what is?

But look at excerpts from transcripts from VBPD body cams (or transcript summaries, as noted per quote), and by Virginia Beach court transcripts. Was Matthew Rushin, at the time of the one sentence he uttered following being yelled at by a stranger, hearing, comprehending, and understanding what was being said to him?

Remember that echolalia and pronoun reversal are most common when autistic people are unable to process input because of processing deficits (processing social cues and auditory input like spoken words)?

Was there an abundance of evidence that Matthew Rushin was overwhelmed, not understanding what he was hearing, and not capable of processing words spoken to him at the time that he echoed Thor Wentz's statement?

The evidence that Matthew Rushin, a person diagnosed with TBI, expressive and receptive language disorder, and autism, was incapable of processing the words he was hearing is abundant. Thus, what he repeated cannot, and should not, be considered a confession to attempted murder or aggravated malicious wounding.

Matthew’s participation in society has only been positive and beneficial for the broader world. He worked, he approached volunteerism passionately, and he had no feelings of judgement or malice towards anyone– even people who had been cruel to him. He rescued kittens, went out of his way to reinforce the value of every person he met, and never in his life demonstrated aggression towards another person.

Even when bullied, even when physically assaulted, even when in distress, Matthew never retaliated against anyone– not impulsively, not in a calculated way, and not even with everyday passive aggression.

He was the quiet, unassuming introvert who engaged in random acts of kindness.

He loved school, his family, and his girlfriend, whom he was going to see the night of the accident. She worked at Panera, too, and he was going to buy her a pastry at the end of her shift.

That’s everyday comfort and simple romance. It’s not the trajectory of a homicidal, suicidal, malicious human.

Matthew Rushin is not dangerous. He is in danger, in perpetuity, because he is vulnerable to abuse, systemically and interpersonally.

Matthew's texts with his girlfriend the day of the accident do not indicate someone intending to commit suicide.

Matthew Rushin's life matters.

Matthew Rushin was never a threat to anyone with regards to committing a purposeful crime. He has lived thoughtfully and with mercy and kindness for his entire life. He, nor his family, were ever negligent in obtaining medical, psychiatric, or therapeutic care for him. He was working with a neurologist, a general practitioner, and a family therapist. He has had a history of IEP and 504 services in school. He had therapy by a speech-language pathologist in childhood and middle school.

He has a long history of having difficulty with speaking, especially when stressed or overwhelmed-- with stuttering, pronoun reversal, echolalia, prosody (tone being atypical), selective mutism, and other differences in speech. He also has hearing impairment and auditory processing disorder. The sole evidence used to certify the charges against him was the statement he echoed immediately after the accident, when all witnesses observed him being confused, frantic, in shock, and not processing what he was hearing.

To learn more about this case, to support Matthew's legal defense and reentry, and to join the quarter of a million people who have signed the petition asking for Matthew Rushin to be freed, visit

In search of justice for the cusicks

What does justice mean for the victims of an accident?

In search of justice in the aftermath of an accident

Justice for accident survivors

Whether someone is a victim of a crime or the survivor of an accident, they are still deserving of justice. What that means is dependent on the circumstances.

In criminal justice, victims are not the direct recipients of justice. The state acts as proxy for the victims, and that process often leaves the victims neglected.

When an incident is explored by a prosecutor, their only recourse for serving justice is punishment. This typically comes in the form of court costs, fines, probation, and prison sentences.

If an accident happens whether or not a person is not criminally negligent, financial justice can be sought for survivors and their families in civil courts.

For automobile accidents, justice is often sought and determined by auto insurance companies. 

Victims and survivors have needs that are often unaddressed by civil and criminal courts.

They need truth and information, first of all. The information of a case, as presented by a prosecutor or a defense in a criminal proceeding, is biased. Each party, typically, presents information that is favorable to the outcome they seek– usually conviction or exoneration, respectively.

But a plea deal or limited access to curated biased and incomplete information in a courtroom does not allow for the victims to ask questions or explore the facts to satisfy their deep need to understand what happened and why.

In addition to their need to understand what happened, they also need to have others understand what has happened to them and how they were affected. They are entitled to have their story heard.

An accident can be criminal if there is negligence. For instance, if a crane operator has not slept for days or is taking a new medication that warns against driving until one knows how they will be affected. If that crane operator falls asleep and causes an accident, they would be criminally negligent. They had no intention of causing an accident, but they are responsible for not taking precautions they should have considered. 

On the other hand, if a well-rested crane operator with no controllable circumstances has a stroke or aneurysm, that is not a crime of negligence. It is not a crime at all. It’s a tragedy.

Obtaining justice, then, cannot happen with a criminal prosecutor acting as the arbiter of justice.

When a person is injured or loses a family member to an accident, they often are put through the merry-go-round of the criminal justice system, hearing the biased agendas of prosecutors and the defense. They are denied the natural inquiry of being able to ask their own questions, get factual answers, and satisfy their need to understand.

In this way, they are further victimized.

Justice would begin with access to full information, objectively, including the right to ask questions of the individual(s) responsible.

Every year, more than 20 Americans are killed by falling icicles. Justice for their surviving families cannot be obtained — obviously– by penalizing the icicles.

In the same way, justice cannot be obtained by penalizing someone for a car accident that happened while they were unconscious.

When the prosecutor and his brother, the sheriff, worked to deny Matthew Rushin access to medical care and evaluation by a neurologist, this perpetuated an injustice against the survivors of the accident.

Justice begins with having complete access to information. Denying access to medical care, misrepresenting Matthew Rushin as a danger to the community, and portraying an accident and a single example of self-harm as a pattern criminally malicious behavior caused the Cusick family to have an incomplete, skewed picture of who Matthew was and what happened that night.

With only access to communication with the prosecutor’s office, the Cusick family was forced into an unnatural relationship in the aftermath of interpersonal tragedy. The only source of information the Cusick’s had was an official who had the express purpose of criminalizing Matthew Rushin.

Now, as the facts of the case unroll, the Cusicks are put in a position of having to determine the truth and being revictimized. This could have been avoided had they been given access to, say, a civilian review board with subpoena power.

If no crime has been committed, then a prosecutor is not the person who should be the arbitor of access to information for survivors.

The answer to this question would have to come from the Cusicks, and the Cusicks would have had to have been given access to unbiased information.

Out of respect for the Cusick family, NeuroClastic will not attempt to speak on how justice would look for them; however, it is safe to conjecture that they would want assurances that this would not happen to someone else.

As is the case with the falling icicles, the answer is larger than the icicle itself. Could structures over busy footpaths and traffic routes be designed or engineered to prevent the formation of large icicles?

Could evaluations of individuals at higher risk of pedal misapplication errors or other circumstances that could contribute to accidents, like the elderly and those with traumatic brain injury, help to determine to driver fitness? Would those measures infringe on the civil rights of drivers?

Certainly, justice would that Matthew Rushin not drive a vehicle again, a reality he and his family have already embraced as a necessity.

At the very least, the Cusick family deserves to have those and other questions explored and answered accurately, without the influence of anyone with an agenda.

As it stands, their only source of answers in this case was a prosecutor. There is not justice in that scenario.

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4 Responses

  1. There is no justice, no justice for a man whos life was ended because of this. Even in a car accident people are responsible. Throw out the criminal aspect and Matthew is still responsible for the horrific accident he caused. Where is the responsibility here? He will never have to pay for what he has done. This is what’s wrong with our country. Tens of thousands of dollars poured into the person who caused this and Matthew made out to be the victim here. He will be with his family soon, he will have a life again soon, and his family will heal. The people he destroyed will be forgotten and their damage is permanent. Where is the call for donations to the man who has over $20k each month in medical bills? Where are the celebrities coming out to help him? Won’t happen, Terra Vance and Ms Rushin want you to think Matthew is the real victim here. They do not care about the family he destroyed otherwise they would be using their social media power to work to help all the victims of this and not just one who gets to go home.

    1. I’m at a loss in understanding why anyone has to ” pay”. Accidents happen. So it seems like u are saying if someone completely ACCIDENTALLY causes an accident. They should ” pay”. How does that help anything? What does it accomplish? It’s not punishment for breaking a law. He broke no laws. He had an ACCIDENT

      1. So if you have a car accident and damage someone else’s vehicle you don’t have to pay? If you injury them you don’t have to pay? What world do you live in where causing accidents leaves you free from consequences and responsibility? He did in fact break laws. When you break a law intentional or not you still are breaking it and there are consequences. Very true in a motor vehicle. You don’t have an unlimited license to not have laws apply to you. Matthew caused accidents and is not being held to pay for any of them financially.

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