- Associated Press - Saturday, August 27, 2016

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) - A former suburban Philadelphia judge has been sent to prison, ending her efforts to avoid incarceration while she is treated for breast cancer.

Rita Jo Ann Arnold, 60, was sentenced in October 2013 to 16 to 32 months in state prison, more than double the term called for under state sentencing guidelines.

The former Chester County district judge pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and records tampering after authorities said she concealed a harassment citation against her son.

A Philadelphia judge hearing the case denied motions Thursday to overturn the sentence, and Arnold was then taken into custody and taken to Chester County prison.

Defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. said his client, who underwent a double mastectomy, was “very, very upset, mostly because of her health issues,” fearing she wouldn’t get proper treatment in prison. But he said she realized that there was “no other avenue” for appeal to avoid the prison sentence.

A state Superior Court panel upheld the sentence in November, and the state Supreme Court earlier this month declined to hear the case. Both Arnold and her husband testified that she had been told by her former attorney that she was likely to get only “a taste of jail,” but the judge said her open plea left the sentence up to him.

The hearing was attended by several of Arnold’s current and former colleagues, including retired judge Dawson Muth, who had represented Arnold before the Judicial Conduct Board and called her “one of the most compassionate and caring persons you would ever meet.

“I think the judge was trying to send a message with his sentence, but I don’t think that message needed to be sent,” Muth, now a defense attorney, said Friday. “She lost her job, she lost her reputation, she lost her pension, and she lost her health benefits. She lost everything. I think that is enough to send a message to other judicial officers.”

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