Wednesday, September 11, 2013
After some deft legal maneuvering by his lawyers, Matthew Cordle, the Ohio man who posted an online video in which he admitted killing a man in a drunken driving accident, was assigned a new judge this afternoon.
Cordle, 22, pleaded not guilty earlier today in a Columbus courtroom where the first judge later said his surprise plea might have been a tactic to have a new judge preside over his case.
Cordle turned himself in to police earlier this week and was indicted for one count of aggravated vehicular homicide for causing the June 22 death of Vincent Canzani, 61, and one count of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Judge Julie Lynch, the first judge, set his bond at $250,000.
Cordle's lawyers said he will remain in jail and not accept bail until he is able to change his plea to guilty before the sentencing judge, Judge David Fais, who was assigned this afternoon.
Fais is one of the longest-serving judges in Franklin County and sentencing is expected on or about Oct. 17, after Cordle pleads guilty at his bond hearing.
Cordle made headlines after his video confession to killing Canzani went viral last week. 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 Tuesday.
"Everything was going to be guilty," she said. "I'm somewhat incensed by somebody who doesn't, isn't forthright with the court."
Lynch was visibly upset Tuesday in court.
"I'm sorry you all came. I'm sorry you all came for this whole big thing," she told the court Tuesday. "There's no reason to be arraigned here."
His attorneys told ABC News that it's a common maneuver to get the legal ball rolling, and that they planned to change 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.
Judge Lynch said Cordle's attorneys were trying to game the system. Under Ohio law, entering a guilty plea locks in the judge, before the case was reassigned. It would have been 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 such 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 one 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."