Was Sentence Fair For Man Who Confessed To DUI Manslaughter In Viral Video?

“I killed a man and accept full responsibility.” No, not me. Matthew Cordle. You know, the Ohio man who made headlines after confessing in a viral video that he killed a man while driving drunk. Yesterday was judgment day for him and he was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and was stripped of his driving privileges for life. Cordle continued to seem remorseful when he passionately stated, “Whatever my sentence may be, the true punishment is living,” Cordle also was ordered to pay court costs and a $1,075 fine.

Cordle pleaded guilty in September to aggravated vehicular homicide and operating a vehicle while impaired. He took responsibility for killing 61-year old Vincent Canzani while driving drunk on June 22. Cordle maintains that while driving drunk he had “blacked out,” which is why he doesn’t remember details of the night of June 22, 2013.

The victim’s ex-wife, Cheryl Canzani Oates wrote to the judge and stated that her deceased husband wouldn’t have wanted Cordle to get the maximum sentence of 8 1/2 years, and believed that Cordle was “sincere in admitting he was sorry” that he caused her husband’s death. She further stated, “I know what pain Matthew feels. The pain will stay with him until his death.”

The victim’s daughter, Angela Canzani, had a different message for the judge. Regarding the video, she stated, “I’ve heard about a message. The message we don’t want to hear is that if you hit and kill someone, and admit to it, you get away with it.”
“My father got a death sentence. Eight-and-a-half years is nothing. Matthew Cordle will have his life back. My father is never coming back.”

Cordle spoke last at his sentencing hearing. He apologized again to the victim’s family. He emotionally said in court, “It should have been me instead of an innocent man. I vow that I’ll do everything I can to prevent it from happening again and his memory from fading.”

I’ve been asked by several people to respond to this case. First, let’s make one thing very clear. Matthew Cordle’s actions caused this tragedy. My heart goes out to the victim’s family. I can’t imagine what losing a loved one under these circumstances would be like. Having prosecuted and/or defended DUI manslaughter cases for the past two decades, I can say that there’s always an enormous sadness that surrounds these matters. Secondly, I commend Cordle for accepting responsibility for what he did. I may have been one of those “high powered attorneys” he referred to in the video who would have had to advise him that if he kept his mouth shut and let us aggressively and zealously defend him, that he could possibly beat the charges or, alternatively, probably work out a very light sentence. I think it was courageous for him to do what he did.

Regarding the penalty, I think it was fair. If anything, I thought it could have been a little a lower and still be deemed fair and just. My initial reaction learning that he was only facing a maximum 8 1/2 years in prison was, “Really, that’s the max you can get in that state for DUI manslaughter?” In Florida, you can get up to 15 years for that same offense. The 6 1/2 years that he received would be considered a very reasonable plea offer here in Florida, assuming prosecutors had a solid case.

If I was forced to make an argument that the sentence was too severe, I’d argue that the lifetime suspension of driving privileges was a bit severe. I would ask why a 5 or 10 year license suspension isn’t sufficient. I get the gravity of his crime, however, considering his remorse and his extraordinary acceptance of responsibility, he could have been given less than a lifetime ban.

I do believe that he, and most every defendant under similar circumstances, should receive a certain reduction from their sentence when they take responsibility for their actions. In federal court, a defendant receives a 2-3 level reduction of his sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines when he timely accepts responsibility for what he’s done. One of the benefits is that it prevents the government from having to utilize it’s precious and scarce resources on having to go to trial on the case. As tragic as this case was, I didn’t love the notion that prosecutors still wanted the maximum sentence. I think that should be reserved for those who don’t take responsibility and/or have a history of traffic related offenses.

At our firm, we defend a significant number of clients accused of DUI, DUI resulting in serious bodily injury, and DUI manslaughter. These cases are always challenging. It’s imperative that we stay up on the latest rulings from the appellate courts and are also aware of all changes to the DUI laws. If you, or someone you know is arrested for a DUI related offense, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free evaluation. Maybe confessing like Cordle is something you want to do. Perhaps an aggressive fight against the state is what you choose. Either way, with over two decades of experience handling these matters, we are here to assist you. Call 305.674.0003 and visit our web site: www.EiglarshLaw.com