COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man who acknowledged his confessional video would give prosecutors what they needed to put him away for a long time for a fatal wrong-way car crash was proved mostly right Wednesday when a judge sentenced him to 6 1/2 years in prison.
Matthew Cordle had faced up to 8 1/2 years in prison for the June crash, which followed a night of heavy drinking near downtown Columbus and killed a man. A judge gave Cordle six years instead of eight on a count of aggravated vehicular homicide but ordered he serve the full six months for driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
The drunken-driving charge “is the genesis of why we’re here today,” Franklin County Judge David Fais said. “Had Mr. Cordle not been driving that vehicle on that early morning under the influence, we wouldn’t be here.”
Cordle said before the judge announced his decision there was no such thing as a fair sentence when it came to the loss of a life.
“The true punishment is simply living, living with the knowledge that I took an innocent life,” Cordle said.
The judge also fined Cordle $1,075 and revoked his driving privileges for life. He gave Cordle credit for 45 days he’s already spent in jail.
Cordle apologized to the family of his victim, Vincent Canzani.
“It should have been me that night, the guilty party, instead of an innocent man,” he said.
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 the judge for the maximum sentence.
“My father got a death sentence and did nothing wrong,” Angela Canzani said. “After 8 1/2 years Matthew Cordle will still have his whole life ahead of him. My dad is never coming back.”
She said Vincent Canzani was a talented artist and photographer who enjoyed working out and spending time with people he cared about. 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 he 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 relatives his heart was filled with sorrow at their loss and he hopes they can forgive his son.
In a 3 1/2-minute video posted online in early September, Cordle admitted he killed Canzani 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.”
He ends the video, which has been viewed more than 2.3 million times on YouTube, by pleading with viewers not to drink and drive.
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 said a heavily intoxicated Cordle denied causing an accident or killing anyone when he was taken to a hospital after the crash, in which he suffered broken ribs and a fractured skull. His attorneys said he may have suffered a brain injury.
Until Wednesday, prosecutor Ron O’Brien had been seeking the maximum sentence. In brief remarks during sentencing he asked the judge to impose something “on the high end.”
“Both the state and the Canzani family are happy with the 6 1/2-year sentence that he imposed,” O’Brien said after.
Cordle’s attorneys said Cordle was relieved the case was over and he could move forward with his plan to honor Canzani’s memory with an anti-drunken-driving message.