Banks, 58, seemed stunned by the proceedings.
``I find myself depicted as one without a social conscience,'' Banks told the judge. ``I have great difficulty with that. I made a mistake. I was inundated with personal and financial problems.''
Banks and an unemployed West Philadelphia man, Michael E. Burrell, 34, were indicted in July and charged with illegally disposing of asbestos removed in June and July 1994 from Banks' 12-story office building at 220 S. 16th St.
Both men were convicted by a federal court jury in November. Burrell is to be sentenced today.
Banks bought the Center City building in 1983 and hired Burrell in 1994 to remove the crumbling asbestos. Prosecutors said Burrell was hired after Banks received estimates from experts charging about $50,000 to do the job. Burrell and his friends, on the other hand, removed the asbestos for a couple of hundred dollars.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy L. Kurland criticized Banks for allowing Burrell and his unknowing co-workers to expose themselves to serious health problems and cancer by removing the asbestos without proper equipment. The workers were so ignorant of the risk, she said, that several let their children play nearby while the work went on in the building's basement.
Banks' attorney, Stephen R. La Cheen, argued that Banks had committed a ``regulatory offense'' and contended that Kurland exaggerated its potential harm.
About 50 of Banks' friends wrote letters to the judge, praising Banks' reputation for honesty and his work for various charities. Specter, who wrote that he had known Banks for more than 15 years, called him ``a man of integrity and good character.''
Shapiro credited Banks' good works but said his criminal conviction ``was not a trivial matter. This is a very serious matter.''
In addition to the prison term, Shapiro put the financially beleaguered Banks on three years' supervised release when he leaves prison and ordered him to get a ``salaried job,'' of which a quarter must go to pay off his fine.