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Despite viral video confession, Ohio man pleads not guilty to DUI charge

Matthew Cordle, who confessed in a YouTube video to accidentally killing a man while driving drunk, has spent his first night in jail. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

An Ohio man who confessed in a online video to killing a man in a drunk driving accident surprised the court by pleading not guilty Wednesday afternoon.

The defendant, Matthew Cordle, 22, released an almost four-minute long video on YouTube Sept. 3, which has now been viewed more than 1.9 million times. In it, he details what happened on June 22, 2013, when he allegedly drove the wrong way on Columbus interstate and crashed into Vincent Canzani, a 61-year-old veteran.

But Cordle's lawyer George Breitmayer said the not guilty plea was a formality to avoid certain nuanced rules and to ensure that a random judge would be assigned to the case.

"The reason we entered the not guilty plea is so there is no allegations that we chose a particular judge for a particular reason," Breitmayer said. "This way it’s completely random."

Cordle had appeared in court Tuesday, but Judge Julie Lynch of Franklin County postponed the hearing saying his lawyers did not follow court procedure for first appearances. 

Breitmayer said he will enter a guilty plea as soon as a judge is assigned, which could happen later Wednesday or in the next few days. The judge set Cordle's bond at $225,000.

In the viral video, which blurs Cordle’s face and muffles his voice, he explains that he was bar hopping with some friends that night, blacked out and decided to drive home.

“I was trying to have a good time and I ended up losing control,” he said. It isn’t until Cordle gives his confession that the camera shows a crystal-clear close up of his face.

The video was his confession and Cordle said he knew it provided the prosecution what it needs to put him in jail for “a long time.” Despite some consultations with lawyers, Cordle said he did not want to lie to avoid jail time.

“I will take full responsibility for what I’ve done,” he said. “I won’t dishonor Vince’s memory by lying about what happened.”

Cordle’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.191, more than double the state’s legal limit, according to the indictment.

He faces a maximum sentence of 8 1/2 years in prison for open count of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He is currently being held at the Franklin County Corrections 1 facility in Columbus, Ohio.

In an exclusive interview with the TODAY show prior to turning himself in on Monday, Cordle said he made the video in hopes of preventing others from drinking and driving, not to garner sympathy to ease his sentencing.

“I’m begging you please don’t drink and drive,” he said. “Don’t say it’s only a few miles, or you’ve only had a few beers, or you do it all time or it won’t happen to you because it happened to me.”