Despite an emotional plea today from the victim's daughter's for the maximum punishment, an Ohio judge sentenced a man who confessed on YouTube to killing a man in a drunk driving accident to six-and-a-half-years in prison.
Matthew Cordle, 22, uploaded a 3.5-minute video to YouTube on Sept. 3 in which he admitted to killing Vincent Canzani, 61, on June 22. Cordle, who was found injured at the scene of the accident and brought to the hospital, had a blood-alcohol content measured at 0.19 after the accident. The stark video confession went viral.
Canzani's daughter told the court today at Cordle's sentencing said that her father "got a death sentence and did nothing wrong." She asked the court to give Cordle the maximum sentence of eight-and-a-half years.
"Vincent Canzani was my father. He had two daughters and five grandchildren," Angela Canzani told the court. "My father was a man that had an impact on everyone he knew and touched the lives of many."
She said her father was a talented photographer and artist who enjoyed working out and being with the people he cared about.
"My sister, Marie, and I will never see our father's face again. Our children will never see their grandfather again," Canzani said. "We will never hear his voice. We will never hug him."
She said that she did not want the court to send the message that if someone hits and kills a person, they can admit to it later and get lenience.
"I hope Matthew Cordle does raise awareness after he does time," she said. "My father got a death sentence and did nothing wrong. Eight-and-a-half years is nothing. Less than that would be unjust. ... He will still have his whole life ahead of him. My dad is never coming back."
Franklin County Judge David Fais sentenced Cordle to six years for the aggravated vehicular homicide count and six months for operating a vehicle while impaired. He was given credit for 45 days served. The judge also ordered a lifetime suspension of his driving privileges.
Prosecutors had also asked for the maximum sentence, saying that Cordle drove in spite of a history of blackouts after heavy drinking. His defense attorneys asked for a lighter sentence to send a message about the value of taking responsibility for one's actions.
Cordle made a statement to the court before the sentencing. He said there was no such thing as a "fair sentencing" when someone loses their life.
"The true punishment is simply living with the knowledge that I took an innocent life," he said. "That pain and weight will never go away."
Cordle said he had privately apologized to the Canzani family, but wanted to take the opportunity "to apologize in person for my horrible crimes."
"I am so sorry for the pain I have caused you, for the loved one I have taken from you," he said to the family. "It should have been me that night, the guilty party, instead of an innocent man."
He vowed to work to prevent any more "senseless" loss of life. "I will not let Vincent's memory fade," Cordle said.
He initially pleaded not guilty before Judge Julie Lynch on Sept. 11 in what was seen as a tactical move by his attorneys to have a new judge preside over his case. She eventually set a combined $255,000 bond.
A week later, before Judge Fais, Cordle changed his plea to guilty on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and driving under the influence.
The judge also read a letter today from the victim's ex-wife, who asked for leniency for Cordle.
"Vincent would tell my children that he would pick them up at any time, any day, no questions asked. He kept his promise," Canzani's ex-wife wrote.
"Vince would not want to see two lives lost in this terrible situation, due to Matthew drinking and driving," she added. "Vince was forgiving and would not want to see Matthew sentenced to the maximum penalty."
Cordle's father also spoke on his son's behalf today. Dave Cordle said his family has been "deeply saddened by the horrific events of June 22" and were "very disappointed, disgusted and heartbroken in the choices Matthew made that tragic night."
He said his son's choice "changed two families forever."
The father said his son is ready to accept responsibility and "do the right thing" by telling the truth. He said his son's mission in the future would be to share his experience with others and try to prevent others from drinking and driving.
"If Matt can save just one victim like Vincent, then Matt truly knows his time incarcerated will have been beneficial."
"My hope is someday soon you'll be able to overcome this tragedy, find peace of mind, peace in your heart and begin the healing process and then, when you're able, to forgive my son Matthew," Dave Cordle said.
Earlier in today's proceeding, the judge said that he had previously decided not to play the video in court, but changed his mind over the weekend.
In the clip, which begins with Cordle speaking to the camera with his face blurred and voice distorted, he says that in the aftermath of the accident he consulted "high-powered attorneys" who said that they could help get his blood test thrown out. But Cordle said he wants to come clean about his culpability in Canzani's death.
"My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani," he says. "This video will act as my confession."
At the end of the clip, Cordle begs viewers to not drink and drive.
An expressionless Cordle watched the video, occasionally averting his eyes for a few moments to look down.