Former Chesco district judge pleads guilty to improperly concealing son's summary offense citation

By Jon Campisi | Jun 26, 2013

A former magisterial district judge from Chester County who was arrested by state

A former magisterial district judge from Chester County who was arrested by state

agents this spring on charges that she concealed a citation in order to protect her son against a possible probation violation has pleaded guilty to her crimes.

Rita Arnold, who resigned from the Downington, Pa., bench following her April arrest by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, pleaded guilty in state court on June 24 to tampering with records and obstructing justice, according to the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Senior Judge John L. Braxton is expected to sentence Arnold, 56, of Downingtown, on July 23.

Authorities had charged Arnold with one count of tampering with records or identification and one count of obstruction of administration of law or other governmental function following an investigation into allegations that she concealed a citation issued to her son for more than two months before docketing it in the state’s court system.

Early reports said Arnold had initially returned the citation to the Pennsylvania state trooper who had issued it to the son following an altercation between two of Arnold’s sons at the family home in January 2010.

Prosecutors had said that one of the sons had been issued a summary offense citation following the domestic incident, the specifics of which have not been revealed, which was filed the day after the incident in Arnold’s district court.

The judge not only failed to immediately docket the citation, she also failed to follow proper procedures to transfer the matter to another district court to avoid any conflicts of interest, the Pennsylvania Record previously reported.

Investigators said Arnold held onto the citation for two-and-a-half months in an effort to shield her son from additional sanctions by the Chester County Probation Department.

It was not immediately clear why the son had been in trouble with the law.

The record does show, however, that after her son completed a stint in a rehab facility, Arnold docketed the summary offense citation using her judicial computer username and password, but without the knowledge of the president judge of the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.

When the docketing delay and other irregularities relating to the son’s citation were discovered, Arnold intentionally misled the county’s president judge and investigators as to what had occurred, the Attorney General’s Office stated.

Arnold had been suspended without pay for a month in July 2012 by the state Court of Judicial Discipline in connection with the matter.

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