Matthew Cordle, whose video confession to killing a man in a drunken-driving crash generated international attention, never expected this. He never expected the dramatic video, produced by the founder of an obscure website, to go viral and generate millions of hits and debate about his motives. He never expected the crush of cameras and reporters that swamped him and his lawyers as a deputy sheriff cuffed him and took him to jail yesterday.
Matthew Cordle, whose video confession to killing a man in a drunken-driving crash generated international attention, never expected this.
He never expected the dramatic video, produced by the founder of an obscure website, to go viral and generate millions of hits and debate about his motives.
He never expected the crush of cameras and reporters that swamped him and his lawyers as a deputy sheriff cuffed him and took him to jail yesterday.
He always expected one thing, however, and still does — to keep the promise in his video to plead guilty and accept “full responsibility” for killing a man.
Watch the YouTube confession here
Cordle, 22, was indicted yesterday by a Franklin County grand jury. He is accused of driving the wrong way while drunk and causing the death of Vincent Canzani, 61, of Gahanna, in a crash on I-670 near 3rd Street on June 22.
His lawyers said the Powell man was “at peace with his decision” as he surrendered on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated. Cordle faces 2 to 8 1/2 years in prison.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Cordle is not “a professional actor” and was sincere in hopes that his video confession would keep others from drinking and driving. Still, O’Brien said he will seek the maximum sentence.
Cordle’s lawyers said he is prepared for such a sentence, but that they still pray the depth of his public remorse sways a judge to impose a shorter sentence.
“A heavy-handed sentence could send the wrong message that accepting responsibility is the wrong thing to do,” said Martin Midian, a Columbus lawyer who represents Cordle.
Cordle has no felony record and no prior DUI arrests. His blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.19 percent following the crash, more than twice the 0.08 percent level at which a motorist is presumed drunk in Ohio.
He was scheduled to be arraigned today in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, but Judge Julie Lynch postponed the hearing until Wednesday.
Lynch said she was told that Cordle was prepared to enter a guilty plea and, when he did not, postponed his arraignment.
She said prosecutors were seeking a maximum prison sentence, while Cordle's defense lawyers wanted "half," or about four years. Lynch said she was willing to impose less than a maximum sentence if Cordle was truly remorseful.
Cordle's failure to plead guilty "calls into question the validity of being so forthcoming in his YouTube video" about his plans to plead guilty, the judge said.
However, Cordle's lawyers said yesterday, and repeated today, that their plan was to plead not guilty before Lynch, so the case would be assigned a trial judge at random, and then quickly enter a guilty plea before that judge.
His lawyers said he still intends to plead guilty and is expected to learn his sentence about a month after entering the plea.
Cordle’s attorneys yesterday said the video was no plea for leniency.
“He wanted to own up to the promises he made in the video,” said George Breitmayer III, who also represents Cordle. “He didn’t do this for any other purpose but to raise awareness about drunken driving and get some closure for the victim’s family.”
Absent his video, Cordle’s attorneys said his case would have generated little more than brief coverage in The Dispatch and on local TV news. No one, including Cordle, expected the explosion of attention, they said.
In his online confession, Cordle admitted to “blackout” drinking and then driving the wrong way on I-670, striking Canzani’s vehicle. He said he would not dishonor Canzani’s memory by doing anything other than pleading guilty.
He begged viewers of the video to learn from his mistake and not drink and drive. The video confession, posted online last Tuesday, was featured on major websites and national TV news broadcasts.
Alex Sheen, a Cleveland-area man and founder of becauseisaidiwould.com, produced the video after Cordle reached out to him in a bid to warn others not to drink and drive.
The YouTube version of Cordle’s confession — “I killed a man” — had 1.25 million views as of yesterday.