COLUMBUS, Ohio — A harsh sentence for an Ohio driver who made an online video confessing that he caused a fatal wrong-way crash after a night of heavy drinking would send the wrong message to people trying to take responsibility for a crime, his attorneys said Monday.
In a 3 1/2-minute video posted last week, Matthew Cordle admitted he killed a suburban Columbus man and said he “made a mistake” when he decided to drive that night.
“My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22nd, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani,” he says somberly. “This video will act as my confession.”
Cordle, 22, was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide Monday and booked into Franklin County Jail. He declined to comment on the advice of his lawyers.
Cordle is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday and his lawyers say he will plead guilty as soon as possible. Franklin County prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Cordle faces up to 8½ years in prison if convicted.
Cordle’s attorneys downplayed any suggestion that Cordle made the video in hopes of winning a light sentence. But a harsh sentence also doesn’t make sense, they said.
“If a judge were to impose a very heavy-handed sentence, I think it could potentially send the wrong message to people,” said attorney Martin Midian. “That accepting responsibility isn’t going to help you at all, it’s in fact the wrong thing to do, that if you accept responsibility, you’re going to be punished.”
His attorneys said they hope he will be free on bond after pleading guilty but before being sentenced to continue to spread his anti-drunk-driving message.
Cordle, of Powell, also is charged with a misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
O’Brien previously said Cordle’s blood sample from the night of the crash tested positive for alcohol and negative for drugs. The indictment alleges Cordle’s blood-alcohol level was more than twice the level at which Ohio authorities generally consider a driver to be impaired.
Messages left with Canzani’s family were not immediately returned Monday. O’Brien said the family will be in court Tuesday. He said in similar cases, it would be common for him to ask for the maximum sentence.
The video was filmed Sept. 3, and the version posted on YouTube has been viewed more than 1.2 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.
“I can’t bring Mr. Canzani back, and I can’t erase what I’ve done, but you can still be saved. Your victims can still be saved,” Cordle says. Then a message appears on the darkened screen: “Make the promise to never drink and drive.”
Associated Press Writer Regina Garcia Cano contributed to this report. Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.