Sable's face dropped into a frown and friends and relatives heaved sighs as Rendell told him that tax evasion is a crime ``that eats away at society.''
``It's serious, and incarceration is warranted,'' the judge said.
In addition to the prison term, Rendell ordered Sable to complete paying $286,800 in back taxes, interest and penalties. He has already paid about $200,000, as well as $100,000 in state back taxes. Sable was also ordered to perform 300 hours of community service and pay a $2,000 fine.
The sentence and the fine were at the bottom of the range recommended for Sable under federal sentencing guidelines.
Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Sable, 44, of Center City, walked quickly down the hall, ignoring reporters' questions.
Earlier, however, Sable addressed Rendell for five minutes, his voice trembling as he apologized repeatedly for the tax evasion. He called the last four years of the federal investigation and prosecution of him ``a terrible nightmare. . . . I will go through the rest of my life as a convicted felon, a fact I'm terribly ashamed of.''
Sable and his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, tried to convince Rendell that Sable deserved probation, not prison.
``Please don't send me to prison,'' Sable asked Rendell. ``I truly know what prison is about. For the past four years, I have been in a personal prison.''
Brafman argued that Sable was rehabilitated, that his Sansom Street store is now being ``run by accountants.''
``It's scrupulously honest,'' Brafman said.
Brafman also filed a two-inch-thick sentencing memorandum highlighting Sable's charity work for the Variety Club organization for disabled children, People for People and other groups.
He submitted 101 letters praising Sable from friends, relatives, customers and others, including Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer; Phillies manager Jim Fregosi; former Phillies outfielder Jay Johnstone; Novella S. Williams, the president of Citizens for Progress; Tod Gordon, the chairman of the Variety Club; and Bradley J. Korman of The Korman Co.
And the lawyer argued that Sable was frightened of possible retribution in prison by associates of the organized-crime group the Junior Black Mafia, against whom Sable testified in two 1992 trials.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Terri Marinari called Sable's testimony ``marginal'' and said that ``time has passed and he has received no threats whatsoever.''
Brafman said later that he would see whether Sable might be able to serve his sentence in a community-based correctional center rather than in a federal prison or prison camp, which is sometimes an option if more-secure facilities are crowded.
Sable was indicted last year on charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering, but he ultimately pleaded guilty to the single tax count. The charges were part of what federal prosecutors called a crackdown on retailers who evaded sales and income taxes and followed similar charges against three other Center City jewelers.