By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
COLUMBUS: An Ohio man was sentenced Wednesday to 6½ years in prison for causing a fatal wrong-way crash after a night of heavy drinking, which he had confessed to in an online video.
Matthew Cordle, 22, had faced up to 8½ years in prison. Franklin County Judge David Fais sentenced Cordle to six years for aggravated vehicular homicide and six months for driving under the influence of alcohol. He also revoked his driving privileges for life as required by state law.
Cordle’s guilty plea last month came just a week after he was indicted in a speedy process absent of the numerous court filings that usually cause such cases to drag on for weeks or months.
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.
He ends the video by pleading with viewers not to drink and drive.