A 22-year-old Ohio man who confessed in an online video to killing a man in a drunken driving crash was sentenced on Wednesday to 6-1/2 years in prison.
Matthew Cordle, who lives in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, Ohio, had pleaded guilty on Sept. 18 to aggravated vehicular homicide and driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol at the time of the wrong-way highway crash that killed Vincent Canzani, 61, in June.
The case gained national attention after Cordle posted on the Internet a 3-1/2-minute video confession titled “I killed a man” in which he admitted to drinking until he blacked out and promised to plead guilty to the charges against him.
He had faced up to 8-1/2 years in prison at his sentencing before Franklin County Judge David Fais.
“I'm so sorry for the pain I have caused you,” Cordle said before he was sentenced in the courtroom where Canzani's family sat. “It should have been me who died, the guilty party.”
Vincent Canzani's daughter, Angela Canzani, told the court her father was a photographer and talented artist with five grandchildren who can never look forward to another holiday with him.
“Eight and a half years is nothing,” Angela Canzani said of the possible maximum sentence. “After eight and a half years, Matthew Cordle will have his whole life. My dad is never coming back.”
Cordle admitted that he tried to drive 20 miles to his home on June 22 after four hours of heavy drinking and was driving the wrong way on a highway off-ramp when his truck hit Canzani's vehicle.
“There is no magic number, no magic sentence in these cases,” Fais said before he sentenced Cordle. “Some people will say this sentence is too lenient, some people will say it is too harsh.”
Prosecutors had sought an eight-year sentence for Cordle, whose blood alcohol content was more than twice Ohio's 0.08 limit. Defense attorneys asked for a shorter sentence, saying he was not a risk to re-offend and had no prior criminal record.
Cordle's video was one of a series of recent online posts by people confessing to crimes in the United States and abroad.
In August, Florida resident Derek Medina posted a Facebook message to “friends” that he had killed his wife and posted a picture of her body on the floor. He has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder and has contended that he shot her in self defense after a verbal dispute turned violent and she began to kick him and punch him with a closed fist.
In April, a man in Vietnam surrendered to authorities there after confessing on Facebook to killing his wife. (Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by David Bailey, Greg McCune and Gunna Dickson)
Canzani’s daughter asked Fais for the maximum sentence. “My father got a death sentence and did nothing wrong,” Angela Canzani told the judge.
Vincent Canzani was a talented artist and photographer who enjoyed working out and spending time with friends and family, she said. She said her children and her sister’s children will never get to see their grandfather again.
The judge also read a letter from Vincent Canzani’s ex-wife who said she believed Vincent Canzani would not have wanted a maximum sentence. She said she believes Cordle will keep his promise never to drink and drive again.
Cordle’s father, Dave Cordle, told the judge he was “disappointed, disgusted and heartbroken” at the choices his son made that night. He did not ask for leniency, and told Canzani’s family his heart was filled with sorrow at their loss and hopes someday they can forgive his son.
In a 3½-minute video posted in early September, Cordle admitted he killed a man 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 acknowledged having a drinking problem after the crash and entered a treatment program as prosecutors gathered evidence against him. He told his attorneys early on that he wanted to plead guilty but made the video against their advice.
Prosecutors say a heavily intoxicated Cordle denied causing an accident or killing anyone when he was first taken to a hospital after the crash, in which he suffered broken ribs and a fractured skull. His attorneys say he may have suffered a brain injury.
Cordle, who lives in Powell, a Columbus suburb, told Fais last month that he had no recollection of the crash, how much he’d had to drink that night or whether he’d had anything to eat.
“I drank so much I was blacked out,” Cordle said at the Sept. 18 hearing where he pleaded guilty.
Prosecutor Ron 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.”
O’Brien sought the maximum sentence of 8½ years. Cordle’s attorneys asked for a sentence that was fair.
The video posted on YouTube has been viewed more than 2.3 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.