Michael A. Rushing’s wife sat on a bench outside a Baton Rouge courtroom on Tuesday, waiting quietly for the two women he was convicted of raping to emerge after a judge sentenced him to 40 years in prison.
She approached one of the women who had spoken in the courtroom about how Rushing, who abducted and raped her at gunpoint, had stolen her youthful dreams. Rushing’s wife embraced her, telling the victim, “I’m so sorry.” All three women shed tears as they hugged and tried to put an ugly chapter of their lives behind them.
Rushing, 50, of Baker, pleaded guilty Monday to raping one of the women as a 22-year-old in 2012 and the other as a 14-year-old in 2000. Both were strangers. On Tuesday, District Court Judge Mike Erwin sentenced him to 40 years in prison for the rapes.
The victim of the 2012 rape read a two-page statement in court, calling Rushing’s actions “selfish and cowardly” but saying she has forgiven him for shattering her dreams and dramatically altering her then-perfect life.
“I was so emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted and basically had to start life over,” said the 24-year-old woman, who was a nursing school student at the time of the attack.
“My dream of becoming a nurse never came true. Instead, I had to deal with putting my life back together when it should have never been broken,” she said as a shackled Rushing listened. “My world was impacted in every possible way. Most days I couldn’t sleep or eat and it took months for me to trust anyone that I didn’t already know.
But after two years, the woman said she has moved on with her life. She is back in school.
“Even though you may have had control over my life for a brief moment of time, I refused to let you control my life after the fact, and I am now a survivor of a horrific situation.”
The woman called forgiving Rushing “one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.”
She said she does not hate Rushing and “couldn’t be happier with where I am in life today.”
The woman described Rushing’s guilty plea Monday to two counts of forcible rape as a huge relief.
“I can finally have closure and peace knowing that you can never do this to anyone else again,” she said in concluding her statement.
The victim of the 2000 rape did not speak inside the courtroom.
In the July 28, 2012, incident, Rushing kidnapped the woman at gunpoint from the Bone and Joint Clinic parking area on Hennessy Boulevard near Essen Lane after following her there from a Denham Springs gas station, East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Sue Bernie said Monday.
He drove her in a red pickup to a wooded area near the Mississippi River in Iberville Parish and raped her, and then left the woman at a fast-food restaurant on Nicholson Drive in Baton Rouge.
During the encounter, which lasted several hours, Rushing told the woman some details about his personal life, including the name of his wife and son, Bernie said. At one point, Rushing — who gave the woman a fake name — fired his gun toward the river to scare off anyone who may have been nearby, the prosecutor added.
In the incident 12 years earlier, Rushing picked up the girl June 16, 2000, while she was walking in her neighborhood at 10 p.m. Rushing forced the girl into a truck and blindfolded her, then took her to a residence where he raped her. He then dropped the girl off back in her neighborhood, Bernie said.
DNA evidence linked Rushing to both rapes, she said.