Ex-judge gets prison for tampering with son's case

Oct. 16, 2013 at 3:24 PM
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WEST CHESTER, Pa., Oct. 16 (UPI) -- A former Pennsylvania judge who mishandled her son's harassment charge will face prison time despite having since been diagnosed with cancer.

Rita Arnold, a district court judge for 19 years in Chester County, was sentenced to 16- to 32 months in prison after admitting she ordered a court employee to "hold on to" a citation for harassment filed by state police against one of her adult sons following a fight with another of her children, the Philadelphia Inquirer said.

Two months later when the officer called Arnold's court to ask why the case had not yet appeared on the docket Arnold lied and said the court was backlogged. Arnold then entered the case into the court system herself, identifying her son, a white male, as a black female. When the error was detected during a routine check, the employee who Arnold originally told to shelve the charge was subpoenaed.

Arnold later tried to have the employee fired.

Arnold pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor charges of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence.

Chester County Senior Judge John Braxton rejected a plea for house arrest by Arnold's attorney, Heidi Eakin. Arnold has since been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy on Sept. 24 and will begin an eight-month chemotherapy regiment because the cancer has spread to other parts of her body.

"The judge said he considered her medical condition but that she would receive care in the state prison," Eakin said after Tuesday's hearing. "I am concerned for her health. I will say that."

Eakin said she plans to appeal the sentence, which exceeds guidelines for the charges. She was hopeful a higher court would allow Arnold to remain out on bail during the appeal.

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