David P. Giordano told a state judge Wednesday that he lived an honorable life.
That is, he said, until he killed his neighbor, 52-year-old Michael Taylor, in 2012 during a fight about Taylor's noisy pet birds.
On Wednesday, Giordano, 65, of Voorhees, stood stoically before Superior Court Judge Samuel D. Natal in Camden asking for mercy during his sentencing hearing.
"I'm truly sorry," Giordano said, turning toward Taylor's relatives and friends in the gallery. "My true intentions were to protect myself."
In February, a jury rejected self-defense and instead convicted Giordano of aggravated manslaughter and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes. He was acquitted of first-degree murder but was still facing a potential 30-year sentence.
Natal imposed an eight-year sentence Wednesday, noting that Giordano, a National Guard veteran with no previous criminal history, would have responded well to a probationary sentence. That was not an option, Natal said, reviewing sentencing requirements. Giordano was immediately taken into custody.
The judge rejected assistant prosecutor Nevan Soumilas' request for a 20-year sentence. He also rejected defense attorney Dennis Wixted's request to set aside the convictions and grant Giordano a new trial.
Instead, the judge concluded, Giordano had not planned to kill his neighbor, but still had to be held accountable for wielding a knife as Taylor charged at him, angry that Giordano threw water on Taylor's birds.
In addition to no prior arrests, Natal said, Giordano had a close relationship with his two adult children and five grandchildren and had a long career working in a supermarket. Wixted said Giordano had been a meat cutter.
The fight between Giordano and Taylor started on a warm weekday afternoon on June 5, 2012. Giordano had been to a fast-food restaurant and returned to his second-floor condominium in the 3000 block of Sherry Street in Voorhees to eat his lunch. The caged birds - more than a dozen - on Taylor's patio were chirping loudly.
Giordano on Wednesday told the judge he made a foolish decision to throw a pot of cool water from his balcony to quiet the birds. Giordano said he did not think Taylor was home.
Wixted said Giordano then sat down to eat his parfait and heard Taylor, who practiced martial arts, rushing up the stairs screaming that he was going "to kill" Giordano.
That's when Giordano made his second foolish mistake, grabbing a kitchen knife and confronting an irate Taylor, Wixted said. A scuffle quickly ensued.
Giordano stabbed Taylor in the abdomen, elbow, and heart. Giordano also was cut on his right bicep, Wixted said, adding that Taylor at one point had the knife and Giordano wrestled it back.
Wixted told Natal that his client feared for his life when Taylor charged at him. After the altercation, Giordano returned to his condominium and called 911. The injured Taylor, however, kicked in Giordano's locked door, splintering the doorjamb, Wixted said. Taylor was overcome by his wounds and staggered back to the landing, where he collapsed, Wixted said.
Soumilas, the prosecutor, said Giordano showed no concern for Taylor. When the 911 operator asked about the severity of Taylor's wounds, Soumilas said, Giordano responded that he had "no idea" and instead spoke about his own injury.
"The defendant put himself in this situation," Soumilas said. He left his condo with a knife to confront his unarmed neighbor, she said. Before the stabbing, Soumilas said, there had been tension between the two about the birds, and Taylor's feeding geese. After the altercation, police placed the birds inside, and the pets were later taken by Taylor's friends and family.
Wixted agreed that Giordano was frustrated that Taylor would not put his birds inside when he was not home, and that he once reported Taylor to the condo association for feeding the geese that left droppings in the common courtyard. But there was not always tension, Wixted said. Giordano also gave Taylor a hand fixing a furnace and shared food with him. They had been neighbors for six years.
Both men lived alone.
Taylor's sister, Theresa Hudson, told the judge that her older brother was "not perfect" but was a good man who years ago helped their father support the family after their mother died.
Hudson said her brother did not deserve to die in such a way. After the stabbing, she said, he remained unconscious in the hospital. He survived surgery, but not a subsequent infection. He died June 24. Hudson tearfully read a statement to the judge and then asked that Natal impose a 20-year sentence.
Giordano admitted that his actions were "stupid and foolish" and that he never anticipated the severe consequences.
He took pride, he told the judge, in working hard, helping raise his two children, and caring for his grandchildren.
The slaying, Giordano said, took all that away and he "wished" he could have been the one who lost his life because it "destroyed me as a man and a human being."