Video confessor pleads guilty to fatal DUI in Ohio
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
The Associated Press | September 19,2013
FILE- This Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, file photo shows Matthew Cordle, right, and his attorney, Martin Midian in court in Columbus, Ohio. Cordle, who confessed in an online video to causing a fatal wrong-way crash after a night of heavy drinking, will plead guilty to the crime on Wednesday, Sept 18, 2013, according to his attorneys. (AP Photo/Mike Munden, File)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio man who confessed in an online video to causing a fatal wrong-way crash after a night of heavy drinking pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated vehicular homicide.
Matthew Cordle, 22, also pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. He faces two to 8½ years in prison at sentencing, which was set for Oct. 10. Cordle will also lose driving privileges for life.
Cordle, who lives in Powell, a Columbus suburb, said little during the hearing, answering a series of questions from the judge with short sentences.
Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said in court that Cordle denied causing a crash or hurting anyone when he was first taken into custody, and that a court order was needed to obtain a blood sample for blood-alcohol testing.
Asked about the night of the crash, Cordle told Judge David Fais he’d been at a series of bars near downtown Columbus and was on his way home but remembered little else.
“I have no recollection,” he said, when asked if any of his friends had tried to stop him from driving. He also couldn’t remember how long he’d been drinking or if he’d had anything to eat.
“I drank so much I was blacked out,” Cordle said. His attorneys said he may have suffered a brain injury from a cracked skull in the accident.
Cordle wanted to plead guilty to make good on his pledge to accept responsibility for the crash, according to his lawyers. They did not ask for him to be released on bond before sentencing, and a judge revoked his $255,000 bond.
In a 3½-minute video posted two weeks ago, Cordle admitted he killed a man from another Columbus suburb and said he “made a mistake” when he decided to drive that night. “My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani,” he says somberly. “This video will act as my confession.”
Cordle received permission to give a media interview from jail today with a news organization his attorneys wouldn’t identify.
O’Brien said he believed Cordle’s remorse in the video was genuine, but he said any further interviews would be self-serving. He also disputed Cordle’s assertion in the confessional video that he could have fought the case against him, which O’Brien called “a slam dunk.”
“It’s nonsense to think that you can beat that case, and any lawyer that told him that was trying to get a large fee on some kind of promise,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien is seeking the maximum sentence. Cordle’s attorneys say they will ask for a sentence that’s fair.
“He’ll be the first person to tell you anytime you sit down and talk with Matt that this is not about him, it is about the Canzani family,” defense attorney George Breitmayer said. “He’s just trying to make something good come out of a terrible, terrible situation.”
Canzani’s daughter told a TV station last week that the attention the case has gotten is forcing her to relive what happened. Angela Canzani told WCMH-TV in Columbus that people seem to forget a person died.
The video was filmed Sept. 3, and the version posted on YouTube has been viewed more than 1.9 million times. It begins with Cordle’s face blurred as he describes how he has struggled with depression and was simply trying to have a good time with friends going “from bar to bar” the night of the accident. He then describes how he ended up driving into oncoming traffic on Interstate 670. Cordle’s face becomes clear as he reveals his name and confesses to killing Canzani.
He ends the video by pleading with viewers not to drink and drive.