Two extraordinary things happened at the 19th Judicial District Courthouse in Baton Rouge the day Michael A. Rushing, of Baker, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in the rape of a young woman in 2012 and a 14-year-old girl a dozen years earlier.
First, the 24-year-old woman he kidnapped and raped two years ago bravely appeared in a courtroom and told the 50-year-old Rushing she forgave him for shattering her dreams and turning her once perfect life into a living hell for a time.
Then, Rushing’s devastated wife tearfully embraced both rape victims outside the courtroom and apologized for what her husband had done to them.
“I’m so sorry,” Rushing’s wife cried as she first hugged the victim of the July 2012 rape.
Inside the courtroom a short while earlier, that victim — who was a 22-year-old nursing school student when Rushing kidnapped her at gunpoint from the Bone and Joint Clinic parking area in Baton Rouge, drove her across the river and raped her in Iberville Parish — described how Rushing turned her world upside down with one “selfish and cowardly” act.
“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. 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,” the young woman said in a soft but steady voice.
“Even though it happened two years ago, I still find myself thinking about it often and wondering why. You will never understand the amount of horror, pain and grief you put my family and I through. Nothing you do could give me back what you took from me.”
The woman then said something in state District Judge Mike Erwin’s courtroom that few, if any, expected to hear.
“Even though I have every right to hate you as a person, I don’t. Not only do I not hate you, but I have forgiven you. That is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life,” she said. “Even with everything you put me through, I pray nothing like this ever happens to anyone in your family or anyone you know. Nobody deserves to be taken advantage of or to go through what you put me through.”
The woman, who has returned to school, said she had to make the decision to move on with her life “and not let you control me.”
“I have finally changed my life around, and I couldn’t be happier with where I am in life today,” she said, calling Rushing’s Sept. 8 guilty plea a “huge relief for me.” He was sentenced the next day.
“I am finally able to have closure on this situation and move on in life. This long process is finally coming to an end for me, and I couldn’t be more thankful that justice is finally being served.”
Baton Rouge police have praised the woman, saying she remained calm and engaged in conversation with her attacker, and ultimately saved her life and helped police arrest Rushing swiftly. She gave police details he told her during the abduction, including where he lived, how much property he owned and when he bought his red, four-door Chevrolet Silverado pickup.
After raping her, Rushing stopped and apologized to the woman, and let her put her clothes back on. She later persuaded him to stop at a fast-food restaurant on Nicholson Drive so she could get something to eat. Rushing dropped the woman off at the eatery and left.
She later identified Rushing in a photo lineup after police developed him as a suspect by matching what the attacker shared with her to anonymous Crime Stopper tips.
Rushing was in his truck with his wife and child when he was arrested in Zachary the day after the attack.
Joe Gyan Jr. covers courts for The Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.