Matthew Cordle, the YouTube "confessor" who confessed to killing a man in a drunk-driving accident via viral video, was sentenced today to six and a half years in prison. He was also banned from ever getting behind the wheel ever again. Six years of his sentence are for "aggravated vehicular homicide," and only six months were tacked onto the sentence for driving under the influence. Cordle made national headlines after confessing to killing a man, 61-year-old Vincent Canzani, on a YouTube video he posted that quickly went viral with 2.3 million views (it's unknown why he wasn't immediately arrested and charged). He posted the video via becauseisaidiwould.com — a website that describes itself as "dedicated to bettering humanity through the power of a promise."
"It should have been me that night, the guilty party, instead of an innocent man," Cordle told the judge. In his "confession" video, he declared:
My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22nd, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani. This video will act as my confession… When I get charged, I’ll plead guilty and take full responsibility for everything I’ve done to Vincent and his family.”
The video was both praised and criticized. Some applauded Cordle for facing the consequences of his decisions, while others thought that the video portrayed him as a sort of "hero" for confessing, and that Cordle were crudely trying to get a more lenient sentence. As we wrote after the video was posted in September:
Cordle fought back on the Today show, which is clearly the appropriate thing to do in this situation. “I hope the Canzani family can get some closure with this, and I pray they find peace someday,” he said on television Tuesday. “This video is not about me. It’s about the message.”
And, even more aggravatingly: “I’m willing to take that sentence for one reason, and that reason is so that I can pass that message on to you.”
“Willing” to take that sentence?
Cordle's lawyer highlighted the video as a demonstration of Cordle's remorse, and argued it would promote taking responsibility for poor decisions. However, the prosecution argued that, given Cordle knowingly drove, even with a history of blacking out after drinking, the sentence was just. Canzani's daughter was in full support of a maximum sentence.
Since the crash, she told NBC, Cordle had refused to cooperate with police or their insurance company, and hadn’t bothered to reach out to her, her sister, or police authorities before posting the video. She also added that his YouTube viral success “sends the wrong message.”
Regardless of the reaction to his "confession", Cordle's crime is still just that: a crime — and one that Cordle and only Cordle is responsible for. As he admitted shortly before the verdict was handed down: "Whatever my sentence may be, there's no fair sentence when it comes to the loss of a life."