Roy Lee Gates Jr., 26, was indicted last October for the July stabbing of 53-year-old Robert Hill Jr. following a "scuffle" over who had won a card game.
Gates appeared in Carroll County Superior Court Thursday before Judge Jack Kirby, intending to plead guilty to the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter.
The state, represented by Assistant District Attorney Vincent Faucette, recommended nine years of prison time for the defendant, in consideration of his guilty plea.
Kirby said that sentence recommendation wasn't enough, sentencing Gates instead to 15 years in prison, followed by five years of probation.
The defendant was on probation for a theft charge last July when he allegedly killed Hill.
Kirby asked Gates how long he'd been out of jail before he "killed Hill," and the defendant said it had been about seven months.
"So you went from robbery to murder, which has been knocked down to voluntary manslaughter, in seven months?" Kirby asked, to which Gates replied, "Yes."
Gates currently has more than six years remaining on that theft charge probation.
Once he told Gates the sentence he planned to hand down, Kirby acknowledged that Gates had the right to withdraw his guilty plea, since the judge's sentence exceeded the state's recommendation.
Gates told the judge he'd like to talk the decision over with his attorneys — public defenders Harry Daniels and Becky Dembkowski — which he did, returning about an hour-and-a-half later with the request to withdrawal the plea.
"I'd like to withdraw my plea and go to trial," Gates told the judge after his conference.
Kirby set the trial date for April 8, with a hearing on March 29 to settle his theft probation issue.
Gates is accused of fatally stabbing Hill on July 15, 2012. Police said the two men, along with several others, gathered on Gates' front porch at the house he and his father share on Spring Street in Carrollton.
Gates, Hill and two other men were playing the popular card game spades when a fight broke out, police said. Hill was stabbed once in each leg, in the chest and in the bicep before being taken to Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton, where he was pronounced dead.
Nine members of the victim's family were present in court Thursday.