I never had the opportunity to meet former Downingtown Magisterial District Judge Rita Arnold.
From the posts on Facebook page regarding her sentencing in Chester County Court, however, it seems I don’t need to — to know what a wonderful woman she is. And all sarcasm aside, Rita Arnold may be the nicest lady I would ever meet.
It sounds like she was a devoted mother for sure. And I have no doubt that she did some fantastic things during her career as a judge.
Here comes the but…
And the but is while she may be a nice lady and a great mother, she now is a convicted criminal. She was sentenced Tuesday to 16-to-32 months in prison for her improper handling of a criminal citation against her son and attempts to get a court staffer to lie on her behalf.
According to Daily Local News court reporter Michael Rellahan, Arnold, of West Bradford, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs after kissing her husband goodbye. By law, a sentence of that length must be served in a state prison.
Senior Judge John L. Braxton of Philadelphia, who imposed the unexpected sentence on Arnold, said he was handing down such a harsh punishment because Arnold had repeatedly lied to judicial officials about her conduct, and pressured her office manager to do the same, according to Rellahan’s story.
Arnold begged Braxton to show her mercy, saying she had cancer and desperately needed treatment. She recently underwent a double mastectomy, she told the court. But Braxton said he was “optimistic” that she would recover.
Now it’s definitely a shame that she has cancer. No one wishes health issues on the former judge. But all of the calls for leniency for Arnold because she has cancer or because she is a nice person, or a great mother, are misguided.
If any of us committed the same crime we would be headed to jail as well – no questions asked. No one would care how nice we are, that we’re great moms, dads, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers or cousins. And if we had diabetes, lupus or even cancer like Arnold, no one would shout or scream or toss out profanity-laced posts on Facebook. We would get treatment in the medical ward of the prison and we would do our time. She had her day in court and she was given a fair trial.
Now not to be too harsh on Judge Arnold, I can definitely see how this could happen to a parent. We as parents often do too much for our children or do stupid things for them. However, when it crosses the legal line then it’s do the crime, do the time.
I see that Judge Arnold has a ton of support in the area. Whether they are friends or relatives or whatever, it’s apparent. And that’s great. Someone in her position now will need that support and loyalty, blind as it is.
It’s now time to move on. We’ll give Arnold’s supporters on Facebook their day as well. They will get their time to vent and even to blame our newspaper for her crimes. After all, that makes sense. The news media is always to blame for the ills of the world.
But then it’s done. Judge Arnold will serve a bulk of her sentence and then be released. We hope her health improves and she returns to her community with a lesson learned. She will always be a mother but hopefully will use better judgment the next time.
And that’s really the bottom line.
— Andy Hachadorian