ONLY ON CVP: An Upper Saddle River man who admitted threatening his neighbor with a crutch in an argument over landscaping stones will go to prison for 90 days if he violates any conditions of a strict two-year probation, a judge in Hackensack said.
“I’m concerned about you flying off the handle,” Superior Court Judge James J. Guida told 55-year-old Lawrence Gorga yesterday. “Words you didn’t like, that perhaps shouldn’t have been said, doesn’t translate to a physical response.
“But I am giving you the benefit of the doubt,” the judge said. “Given what I have received from all your supporters, your character and attitude are such that I don’t believe you’ll have another criminal offense.”
Guida also said he was sparing Gorga time behind bars, in part, because of his 8-year-old daughter, with whom he shares custody with his ex-wife.
The youngster spends most of her time with Gorga, who has responsibility for transporting her to and from school and to daily activities.
“I regret it. It’s been the worst experience of my life,” he told the judge yesterday. “I just hope you’ll consider that I’m a father, and I think I’m pretty good at it, and my daughter needs me desperately.”
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Dyane Lluch said the fight between Gorga, his 70-year old neighbor and the neighbor’s adult son was “a ridiculous incident — and that makes it more scary.”
“He’s violent, he’s aggressive,” Lluch told the judge. “He knew the victim and should have known he was more than 60 years old.”
Gorga was standing in the recreation room of his house, which was being rebuilt, when he saw a laborer removing large stones from a landscape wall at the front of the property and trucking them in a wheelbarrow to his neighbor’s house across the street .
The wall cost about $25,000 to erect and had been there for about 10 years, he testified during the trial.
Despite a torn meniscus and a broken leg, Gorga got out of his car and hobbled over to his neighbor and the man’s son.
At one point, authorities said, Gorgoa threatened to shove his metal crutches somewhere.
The elderly neighbor sustained a broken nose in the fight that followed, and Gorga submitted medical records showing he himself had a concussion, saying that the man’s son kneed him in the head with the full force of his weight while he was on the ground.
The fight was broken up by a stranger in a black SUV who stopped and pulled the son off Gorga.
Prosecutors offered Gorga an opportunity to plead to a lesser disorderly persons offense.
Gorga rejected it, saying that his neighbors could file a civil suit based on the conviction because “it’s all about money.”
He applied for Pre-Trial Intervention but was denied this past April, based on the neighbor’s injury, the threats and violence, and a history of arrests for fighting, obstruction, and aggravated assault in Jacksonville, Florida in 1979; Seaside Heights in 1983, and also in Atlantic City in 1983.
Guida convicted Gorga of aggravated assault and making terroristic threats last month after hearing testimony from him, his girlfriend and the two neighbors.
He said that Gorga’s speech and body language made it unlikely that his account of the incident was credible.
What’s more, the judge said, Gorga exhibited “bizarre behavior” that showed his “combative and competitive nature” when he later challenged a police officer at headquarters to a sit-up contest and completed 125 sit-ups with the leg injuries.
In addition to probation, Gorga will have to attend anger management classes and is restrained from having any contact with his neighbors.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.