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Upper Saddle River man convicted of assaulting neighbor, 70, over landscape stones

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

ONLY ON CVP: Citing a police station sit-up contest, a judge in Hackensack yesterday convicted an Upper Saddle River man of aggravated assault and terroristic threats against his 70-year-old neighbor in a fight over the theft of stones from a landscape wall.

The speech and body language of 55-year-old Lawrence Gorga “make it unlikely [that] his account is credible,” Superior Court Judge James J. Guida said, after hearing testimony from him, his girlfriend and two neighbors.

What’s more, the judge said, Gorga later exhibited “bizarre behavior” that showed his “combative and competitive nature” when he challenged a police officer to a sit-up contest and completed 125 sit-ups — with a broken leg.

Lawrence Gorga (STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

Gorga said he was outside his Riverview Terrace house, which was being rebuilt, when he saw a landscaper remove stones from a $10,000 landscape wall on his property and truck them in a wheelbarrow to a house across the street on April 14, 2012.

Gorga, who had a torn meniscus and broken leg, was on crutches and wearing a knee brace when he approached his elderly neighbor and the man’s son.

At one point, authorities said, Gorgoa threatened to shove his metal crutches somewhere.

The 70-year old 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, then asked if anyone wanted to call police.

According to Gorga and his girlfriend, Catherine Pless, everyone agreed not to call police and the two of them left to go to her house about three-quarters of a mile away in Saddle River. Gorga was living athere while he built a new house on his old foundation.

His neighbor and son both testified that he Gorga knew that police were being called. The judge said records show at least two 911 calls at the time of the incident.

Prosecutors had offered Gorga an opportunity to plead to a lesser disorderly persons offense, for which he’d have received probation.

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 found Gorga guilty of a third-degree aggravated assault charge and of making terroristic threats to his neighbor. The judge also acquitted him of obstruction charges.

He set sentencing for July 18.

STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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