Matthew Cordle: Youtube’s Criminal Case

By Emily Abrishamkar

On September 4, a video was posted on Youtube titled “I killed a man,” that would soon go viral. Matthew Cordle, a 22-year-old Ohio native, confessed, to killing a man in a drunk driving accident. The video begins with a man speaking using a voice-altering device with his face blurred, effectively concealing his identity, admitting those famous three words. As the video progresses, however, Cordle reveals himself, stating, “I will take full responsibility for what I’ve done.”

In the nearly four-minute-long video, Cordle details his history of depression and issues of alcohol abuse, including his tendency to black out after heavy drinking. Cordle was out bar-hopping with friends and describes, “I was just trying to have a good time, and I lost control,” on the night of the accident. On that fateful day of June 22, 2013, 61-year-old Vincent Canzani tragically died in a vehicular accident when Cordle hit him driving on the opposite side of the road.

Cordle turned himself into the authorities within days after the video was uploaded, facing a possible eight year sentence, the maximum amount in Ohio. His license was also suspended for life and was ordered to pay a fine of $1,075 to the court. On September 18, Cordle pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, and was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison. Cordle’s judge, Judge David Fais, recalls playing the Youtube confession three times in a row and broadcasted said video at one point during the trial. Cordle seized the opportunity during the trial to address Canzani’s family, “It should have been me that night, not an innocent man,” he said.

Judge David Fais read two letters to the court, one by Canzani’s ex-wife, Cheryl Canzani Oates, and the other by Herald Dennis Jr., a victim of what was considered to be one of the most horrific drunk driving accidents. Oates wrote that Canzani, if he were still alive, would not have wanted Cordle to spent eight years in prison for his mistake. Dennis Jr. additionally commended Cordle for, “[possessing] the courage to surrender and take responsibility for his actions,” something that Dennis himself never was given by the man who caused his accident.

Despite Cordle’s genuine apologies, Canzani’s daughter, Angela Canzani, spoke in court and asked for him to receive the maximum sentence. She contended that if the maximum eight years is not pronounced, the court will send a message, “if you hit and kill someone, all you have to do is admit to it later and get leniency.” Judge David Fais asserts although, “Some people will think that sentence was too lenient, some will think that the sentence was too harsh... This court has reviewed the matter thoroughly.”

Moving forward, Cordle understands that his imprisonment will not make up for the loss of the Canzani family, but he hopes it will provide some kind of closure. “As far as the prison time, I’m just going to take it as it comes and do everything I can to walk out of prison a better man than I walked in.”

And from this immense tragedy, Cordle aims to reach an audience of young people like himself by publicizing his own experience. In his video he implores drivers, “I’m begging you, please don’t drink and drive” and not to “make the same excuses I did.”