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Man who admitted to deadly DUI on YouTube: 'I'm not a hero'

Oct. 24, 2013 at 9:29 AM ET

An Ohio man who made a stunning online confession of being drunk behind the wheel during a deadly crash hopes his story is a deterrent to others.  

“I don't want to get glorified by this, but if I have to be the poster boy for this thing, then I want people to know that I'm not a hero, I'm not courageous,’’ Matthew Cordle told Matt Lauer on TODAY Thursday. “I did a decent thing (in making the video), and I'm a cautionary tale.”

Cordle, 22, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison Wednesday. He confessed to speeding, driving drunk and driving the wrong way on June 22, when he was in a two-car crash that killed 61-year-old Vincent Canzani. He'll serve two consecutive sentences of six months for operating a vehicle while impaired, and six years for aggravated vehicle homicide.  

On Sept. 3, Cordle posted a YouTube video via the website becauseisaidiwould.com that has been viewed more than two million times in which he confesses to the crime, says he will plead guilty, and begs others to not drink and drive. In September, he pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and operating a vehicle while impaired. Cordle’s sentence is two years short of the maximum.

“As I said in the courtroom, there’s no real fair sentence for the loss of a life, so I just hope that the family can move forward from this,’’ Cordle told Lauer. 

Reactions to Cordle’s video ranged from respect for owning up to his actions to criticism that he was trying to get a lighter sentence.

“If you have something on that wide of a scale, you're going to have so many different opinions on it, and everyone's entitled to their opinion,’’ he said. “I was actually being investigated for (the crime). The video was not meant to be a confession, it was meant to prevent drinking and driving, and hopefully prevent the senseless loss of lives.

“I believe any lawyers, including my own, would tell you that abandoning your defense and pleading guilty is not a way to get a lighter sentence.”

When Cordle’s YouTube video was played in court on Wednesday, Canzani’s daughter called it self-serving.

“The message I do not want to send is that if you hit and kill someone, all you have to do is admit to it later and get leniency,’’ Angela Canzani told the court.

Canzani said that a six-and-a-half-year sentence is "nothing,” as her father's sentence was death. "After eight and a half years, Matthew Cordle will have his life back — my father is never coming back,'' she told the judge. 

“It's heartbreaking because every word she said is true,’’ Cordle told Lauer. “In the scheme of things, two to eight years is nothing for taking someone's life. He won't have any years left. He won't have any time left to see his family. That's something I'll have to live with, and hopefully I'll be able to move on myself.”

Cordle said Thursday he felt “relief” that the process is over. He hopes to keep Canzani’s memory alive and continue to speak out against the dangers of drinking and driving.

“It's going to be more difficult from behind bars, and obviously I don't know every avenue I can take yet, but once I get to prison, hopefully I'll be able to speak out in some form or manner,’’ he said. “I'll weigh up all my options and consider doing the best thing possible, possibly putting it in other people's hands as well.”

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