A Wapato man was sentenced to 8½ years in prison Tuesday for fatally stabbing another man during a party last year.

Chester Olen Johnson, 22, apologized in a rambling statement, the day after he plead out to first-degree manslaughter in the death of Javier Garcia Jr., a 27-year-old father of four known to friends as “Boogie.”

“This shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Johnson could have gotten up to 10½ years in prison for his guilty plea Monday, which averted trial on a more serious charge of second-degree murder.

Authorities said Johnson stabbed Garcia once in the chest during a party on May 10, 2011, at 218 W. Elizabeth St. in Wapato.

Johnson’s attorney, Scott Bruns, told Yakima County Superior Court Judge Ruth Reukauf that his client stabbed Garcia in self-defense after Garcia punched him twice and knocked him down.

Despite testimony the stabbing occurred on the day of Garcia’s daughter’s birthday, Bruns noted that Garcia was partying elsewhere and not with his family.

Bruns also noted that Garcia’s blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent was nearly 2½ times the legal limit to drive, and that Garcia’s criminal record included 23 arrests.

His client’s more modest criminal history was limited to a trespassing conviction and an underage drinking violation.

“This was a tragedy brought on by alcohol,” Bruns said.

Reukauf agreed — to a point.

“I might accept that as an explanation,” she said, “but it is never an excuse.”

Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or cbristol@yakimaherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ChrisJBristol.