Taking Full Responsibility…

Matthew Cordle, age 22, killed a man on June 22, 2013, in Ohio.  He was intoxicated after a night of heavy drinking and drove the wrong-way on Interstate 670 hitting another car.  Vincent Canzani (age 61) died as a result of Cordle’s actions.

This type of accident happens too often.  Impaired drivers get in their cars believing that they can handle themselves despite their impairment and people are injured and killed.  Prosecutors regularly bring charges on such cases.

Cordle has been charged with aggravated vehicular homicide.  Cordle plans to plead guilty.  He can be sentenced to up to 8 1/2 years in prison.  This seems just to me.  In my estimation, getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated illustrates a criminal indifference for life – one’s own life and others’ lives.

But there is more to this story than just the facts.  Cordle did something decidedly unusual – indeed, it may be unprecedented in such cases – he posted a video of his admission of guilt on the internet and vowed to take responsibility for his actions.  According to Cordle, his attorney had already advised him that he thought he could beat the charges, but Cordle would have had to lie.  Cordle decided that he couldn’t do that and dishonor the victim’s memory.

Cordle hopes that his story as he tells it the short video will serve as a powerful message of the dangers of drinking and driving.  Cordle begs others not to make the same mistake he made.  The video is a stark rendering of a young man who made a terrible choice on June 22, 2013.

There are those who will argue that Cordle made the video to gain a more lenient sentence. There are others that will applaud his attempt to make a difference in others’ choices by sharing his story.  As for me, I do not know why he made the video, but I appreciate that he is taking full responsibility for his actions.  I also think seeing such a young man speak to the realities of his choice that night – driving while intoxicated, Vincent Canzani’s death, the criminal penalty he will serve – is a powerful reminder of how quickly a foolish choice can strip away the life we had and tear apart the lives of others.  I don’t know how much Cordle’s plea will change the behavior of those who choose to drink and drive – perhaps not at all; but, I do hope that his ownership of his actions is something that will inspire others to think twice about taking full responsibility for their own actions.

Watch the video and please do share how you feel about it.  Cordle will be arraigned tomorrow.  I will follow this story with curiosity.  I want to know how the court will view his confession and willingness to take full responsibility.  I also want to know how Cordle will carry himself as he moves into his new reality of serving time in prison.  Nothing he does now can undo what has been done; however, if he does the time he has coming and does so with a somber recognition of what he has taken from the Canzani family – I will have to give him a nod of respect.  We all make mistakes – some bigger than others – but we do not all take responsibility for those mistakes.  Ownership of one’s actions is a mark of integrity and we don’t see integrity in play often enough these days.  Integrity is about all Cordle has left to share now, but I think that will carry him.

My condolences to Vincent Canzani’s family.  There can be no apology, regrets, or ownership of responsibility that makes the loss any easier.  I hope they can find some peace.

Day one thousand five hundred and twenty-three of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C