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Ohio man who confessed online gets 6 1/2 years for drunk driving

October 23, 2013|By Michael Muskal

An Ohio man who admitted in an online video that he had engaged in a night of celebratory drinking then recklessly drove the wrong way,  crashing into another car and killing a man, was sentenced on Wednesday to 6½ years in prison.

Matthew Cordle, 22, of Powell, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, was sentenced on two counts, including felony aggravated vehicular homicide, for the June accident that killed 61-year-old Vincent Canzani. The prosecution had sought a maximum sentence of more than eight years in prison while the defense had sought leniency because Cordle had taken responsibility for his actions in a video that went viral.

In handing down the sentence, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge David Fais said he looked at the case from all angles, both Cordle’s acceptance of blame and the Canzani family’s loss.

“Some people will think that sentence was too lenient, some will think that the sentence was too harsh,” Fais said during the televised proceeding. “This court has reviewed the matter thoroughly.”

Fais said he was imposing six months in the Franklin County Jail, for driving under the influence but deducted 45 days that Cordle has already served. After serving that sentence, Cordle will be turned over to state prison officials to begin serving his six years in one of their facilities on the charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, the judge said. The court also imposed fines and revoked Cordle’s driving privileges for life, as required by Ohio law.

On June 22, Cordle had been celebrating and drinking when he drove his car the wrong way in the Columbus area. He then hit Canzani's vehicle, killing him.

In a nearly four-minute video, Cordle confessed to killing Canzani,  accepted responsibility for the death and pleaded with viewers not to drink and drive. The video it has been viewed more than 2.3 million times.

The video was produced by Alex Sheen, 28, founder of the nonprofit Because I Said I Would, which describes itself on its website as "a social movement dedicated to the importance of a promise." Sheen posted Cordle’s confession on his organization's website and social media profiles. In the video, Cordle holds up a card with a note reading, "I will take full responsibility for what I've done." 

In the video, also posted on YouTube, Cordle’s face is blurred and he speaks of his past depression. That night, he was trying to have a good time with friends going “from bar to bar.”  He then describes how he ended up driving into oncoming traffic on Interstate 670. The face comes into sharp focus as Cordle admits to the killing.

On Sept. 18, Cordle entered a formal plea of guilty to the two charges.

Wearing tan prison togs, Cordle spoke briefly at Monday’s hearing before the sentence was pronounced.

 “Whatever my sentence may be, there is no such thing as a fair sentence for taking a life,” he said, adding: “That pain will never go away.”

Cordle said he had apologized privately to the family but used his time in court to again seek forgiveness.

“I would like to take this occasion to apologize,” to the family and friends of Canzani, Cordle said.  “I am so sorry for the pain I caused you,” he said. “It should have been me that night, not an innocent man.”

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien pushed for the maximum, saying Cordle drove that night despite knowing he had a history of blackouts after heavy drinking.

Canzani's daughter also asked for the maximum sentence. “My father got a death sentence and did nothing wrong,” Angela Canzani said. She said she and her children and her sister’s children will never see again get to see Vincent Canzani, an artist and photographer.

Cordle's father, Dave Cordle, told the judge he was “disappointed, disgusted and heartbroken” at the choices his son made that night and said he was sorry for the  Canzani family’s loss.


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