The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

September 19, 2013

Video confessor pleads guilty to fatal DUI — faces 2 to 8 1/2 years

COLUMBUS — Confronted at a hospital by police who said he’d just killed a man, drunk driver Matthew Cordle was angry and in denial.

“He became very irate, and began yelling, he didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t do it, and he wasn’t going to give them any blood sample,” Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Wednesday.

Sober and in recovery, Cordle had a change of heart. He decided to plead guilty as quickly as possible, and made an online video confessing to the crime. He didn’t waver from the position he took in the Sept. 3 video, and on Wednesday he made good on his pledge and pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide.

“I drank so much I was blacked out,” Cordle told Franklin County Judge David Fais near the end of a 38-minute hearing.

“So I would say this was a binge drinking situation, correct, Mr. Cordle?” Fais asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Cordle said.

His guilty plea came just over a week after he was indicted, light speed compared to most court cases which can drag on for weeks or months.

Sentencing was set for Oct. 10. Cordle, 22, faces two to 8  1/2 years in prison, a $15,000 fine and loss of driving privileges for life. He also pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. His blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

In a 3 1/2-minute video posted two weeks ago, Cordle admitted he killed a man from another Columbus suburb 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 told Fais he’d been at a series of bars near downtown Columbus and was on his way home but remembered little else.

“I have no recollection,” he said, when asked if any of his friends had tried to stop him from driving. He also couldn’t remember how long he’d been drinking or if he’d had anything to eat. His attorneys said he may have suffered a brain injury from a cracked skull in the accident.

Two other cars narrowly avoided involvement in the crash that night, including two women in a car who suffered minor injuries as they swerved to avoid Cordle, O’Brien said.

Cordle did not ask to be released before sentencing and the judge revoked his $255,000 bond.

Cordle received permission to give a media interview from jail Thursday with a news organization his attorneys wouldn’t identify.

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.”

“It’s nonsense to think that you can beat that case, and any lawyer that told him that was trying to get a large fee on some kind of promise,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien is seeking the maximum sentence. Cordle’s attorneys say they will ask for a sentence that’s fair. They defended Cordle’s upcoming interview, saying he wants to get his anti-drunk driving message out.

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