YouTube Confessor to Fatal DUI to Change Not Guilty Plea
A 22-year-old Ohio man admitted via online video that he killed another man in a drunk driving accident. And next week, he’ll admit as much to a judge.
Matt Cordle’s stunning confession was delivered through a professionally produced video posted on a website called “because I said I would,” which claims to be “dedicated to bettering humanity through the power of a promise.” The video initially portrays Cordle with a blurred face and altered voice, but by the end, Cordle reveals all and admits, “I killed a man.”
He says he understands he’s giving prosecutors everything they need to ensure his conviction, but it’s worth it for the opportunity to deliver one message to his viral video audience.
“I beg you, and I say the word ‘beg’ specifically,” Cordle said. “I’m begging you: please don’t drink and drive.”
Attorney Didn’t Know
One of Cordle’s attorneys, George Breitmayer, said he wasn’t aware of his client’s confession until after it was posted online.
Breitmayer told WBNS-TV that Cordle’s video “is a testament to both his integrity and his character and I know that he intends to fully cooperate throughout the tenancy of all these proceedings.”
In the video, Cordle said he “consulted some high powered attorneys” who were “convinced that they could get my blood test thrown out, and all I would have to do for that was lie.”
Portland attorney Kevin Sali said Cordle’s desire to come clean without seeking his attorney’s approval is not uncommon.
“There’s often a tension as a criminal defense lawyer between a person’s personal needs and what’s best in their legal situation,” Sali said. “They say confessions are good for the soul.”
“And yet, as lawyers, we pretty much universally advise clients not to talk about the facts of the event until we can determine where things are going. I tell clients, ‘as hard as this is going to be, you really need to not talk about this with anyone except a privileged person like your attorney.’”
Effect on Sentencing Unknown
Cordle’s attorneys insist the video confession was not a ploy to appeal for a lighter sentence, but a sincere effort to give closure to his victim’s family and encourage others to learn from his mistakes. His sentence may depend greatly on which way a judge sees it.
“Just like legal laypeople, a judge will be open to all those interpretations,” Sali said.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien told the Columbus Dispatch that he would seek the maximum sentence of 8 1/2 years. Martin Midian, Cordle’s co-counsel, warned that “a heavy-handed sentence could send the wrong message that accepting responsibility is the wrong thing to do.”
Judge Surprised by Plea
Cordle appeared in court for his arraignment Tuesday, where Judge Julie Lynch expected him to plead guilty. But when his attorneys entered a plea of not guilty, Lynch expressed her frustration to the court.
“I’m sorry you all came,” Lynch said, according to ABC News reports. “I’m sorry you all came for this whole big thing. There’s no reason to be arraigned here.”
Cordle’s arraignment was rescheduled for Wednesday, where he again pleaded not guilty. His lawyers explained that the not guilty plea would quickly put Cordle’s case before a randomly assigned judge, at which point Cordle intends to enter his guilty plea. That court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 18.
“The not guilty plea is virtually automatic,” Sali said. “It is virtually unheard of for a person to just walk in and enter a guilty plea. You’ve lost any sort of possibility you might have to negotiate something. The only exception is if the defendant worked something out with a prosecutor before the plea.”
Confession With a Digital Trail
Sali says it’s nothing new for clients to ignore their attorneys’ advice against talking about a case, because “human beings just have this deep desire to get things off their chest and speak to people.”
But Sali warns that in the era of social media, the available outlets for confessions are getting defendants in bigger trouble.
“If someone just talks to their brother or their buddies or something, chances are the police won’t find that out. But when it’s shared on social media, that’s usually a permanent and solid piece of evidence. There’s not so much an increase in people talking, but an increase in the indelible impressions the talk tends to create.”
What do you think about Cordle’s online video confession? Did he do the right thing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.