A 31-year-old truck driver who violated a court protective order and stabbed his estranged wife has been sentenced to up to 11 years in prison.

Garfield Alford had pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and burglary for breaking into the home of Barbara Alford and assaulting her. The woman nearly died, hovering in critical condition for days.Alford had asked for probation for the June 15, 1994, attack, despite five previous assault charges involving his wife. A sixth assault charge and two counts of abusing her children are still pending.

He and his attorney argued that he was provoked.

"We want to point out in these domestic cases it takes two to tango," said attorney Richard Uday.

"Some people don't understand many things about domestic violence," said Alford. "You can be all happy and smiles and grins, and the next thing you know, you can be at each other's throat."

Third District Judge Timothy Hanson agreed that every story has two sides. But he said he had tired of Alford's flagrant disregard for the law and his conduct during the disputes. He sentenced him to consecutive 0-to-5 year sentences and added a year for violating the protective order.

"You can walk away. You chose not to walk away. You have repeatedly chosen not to walk away," Hanson said.

"We don't sign these protective orders . . . for our health. When I sign one of them, I mean them to mean business," Hanson said. "I sign the order for the primary purpose of avoiding what happened here."

Barbara Alford, 39, had obtained the protection order a week before the stabbing. Alford was arrested the first time he ignored it.

But when the Salt Lake County Jail released Alford - by mistake - two days later, he returned home and stabbed her. He was initially charged with attempted murder.

Barbara Alford did not attend Friday's sentencing but had written to Hanson, urging a strict sentence.

Alford and Uday contested the woman's version of that night. He said his wife invited him home, took off her shirt during a romantic interlude and then grew angry with him, which led to the stabbing.

Prosecutor Ann Boyden sharply disagreed. Barbara Alford - and three other adults in the home - said Alford called the house and she told him not to come over. Later, Alford barged in and immediately seized and stabbed his wife, the witnesses said.

According to police reports, Alford had slashed power and telephone lines before going inside.