(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Matthew Cordle, the Ohio man who posted an emotional video confession online admitting to killing a man in a June drunken driving accident, pleaded not guilty in an Ohio court Wednesday. It was a move, legal experts say, that may be a tactic to have a new judge preside over his case.
On Wednesday Judge Julie Lynch set bail at $150,000 for the 22-year-old Cordle, who was indicted this week for one count of aggravated vehicular homicide for causing the death of Vincent Canzani, 61, on June 22, and one count of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Cordle turned himself in to police on Monday.
Cordle’s lawyers said that he will not accept bail until he is able to enter his plea of guilty to the sentencing judge, who will be chosen at random.
Cordle made headlines after his video confession to killing Canzani went viral. In the video he said he’d take full responsibility and plead guilty. But Judge Lynch told ABC News that Cordle’s lawyers decided that Cordle would plead not guilty at the last minute before an initial hearing on Tuesday.
“Everything was going to be guilty,” she said. “I’m somewhat incensed by somebody who doesn’t, isn’t forthright with the court.”
On Tuesday in court Lynch was visibly upset.
“I’m sorry you all came. I’m sorry you all came for this whole big thing,” she told the court on Tuesday. “There’s no reason to be arraigned here.”
So why would Cordle plead not guilty despite his assertions? His attorneys told ABC News that it’s a common maneuver to get the legal ball rolling, and that they planned on changing the plea to guilty immediately.
“I was blindsided by the fact that we didn’t go through with an arraignment, because the prosecutors that I spoke with, they knew our plan was to enter the not guilty plea,” attorney George Breitmayer III told ABC News.
Wednesday in court, though, Cordle ultimately pleaded not guilty to the crime.
Judge Lynch said that Cordle’s attorneys are trying to game the system. Under Ohio law, entering a guilty plea locks in the judge — in this case Lynch. She said that she believes Cordle’s team got spooked after she told them she didn’t know how she’d sentence Cordle, who faces anywhere from two to eight and a half years in prison.
ABC News chief legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams said that these factors can all make a difference in sentencing.
“It seems pretty clear he’s going to plead guilty,” Abrams said. “Once you commit to pleading guilty, there are only a few questions left: What’s going to be the sentence? And who determines that? The judge — and which judge you get — can make a big difference.”
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