Ohio man who made confessional DUI video appears in court, but judge delays guilty plea

  • Article by: ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS , Associated Press
  • Updated: September 10, 2013 - 4:40 PM
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After confessing on video to killing a man in a drunk-driving accident, Matthew Cordle, 22, right, surrenders to sheriff's deputies at the Franklin County Corrections Center in Columbus, Ohio, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013.

Photo: Adam Cairns, Associated Press - Ap

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio driver who made an online video confessing to causing a fatal wrong-way crash after drinking heavily must wait at least a day to enter his promised guilty plea.

In a 3½-minute video posted last week, Matthew Cordle admitted he killed a man from a Columbus suburb and said he "made a mistake" when he decided to drive that night.

"My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22nd, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani," he says somberly. "This video will act as my confession."

Cordle, of Powell, another Columbus suburb, appeared briefly in Franklin County court Tuesday after being charged with aggravated vehicular homicide a day earlier and turning himself in. Cordle also is charged with a misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Judge Julie Lynch ended the hearing shortly after it began. She said an expected arrangement whereby Cordle would plead guilty and be sentenced had changed. Lynch said Cordle should appear before her again Wednesday.

After the hearing, Lynch said Cordle's lawyers appeared to change their minds about having the case in front of her after she refused to commit to a specific sentence.

"Now we're talking a little different scenario than when people came in and said he wants to take responsibility, he wants to plead guilty, he wants to do this," Lynch said in an impromptu news conference as she sat at her bench in the courtroom.

Cordle faces two to 8½ years in prison.

Cordle's lawyers denied they had decided to look for a different judge instead, a process known as judge shopping, which is banned by court rules. They wouldn't comment on any discussions of a sentence with the judge.

Cordle will enter a not guilty plea initially Wednesday, a process that will lead to a judge chosen at random, defense attorney George Breitmayer said. Cordle will then plead guilty before that judge. That should eliminate any talk of judge shopping, Breitmayer said.

"He wants his message to stand strong, that he's doing this, he's taking responsibility for what he's doing, but he doesn't want any appearance of favoritism, or any appearance that he sought out any particular judge," Breitmayer said.

Wearing a beige jail shirt and blue pants and slippers, Cordle sat between his lawyers and didn't speak during the hearing. His family and relatives of Canzani all declined to comment.

The video was filmed Sept. 3, and the version posted on YouTube has been viewed more than 1.7 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.

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