The bail conditions allow for the 57-year-old Arnold to be released while her attorney appeals her sentence. The former justice pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor charges of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence. Prosecutors say Arnold concealed a citation filed against her son and tried to have the court employee whom she asked to help in the cover-up fired.
Philadelphia Senior Judge John Braxton, who was called in to hear Arnold's case, said at the Oct. 15 sentencing that she would receive treatment for a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer in prison. On Friday, in response to a motion from Arnold's attorney, Braxton said she could be released pending appeal on $100,000 bail. Braxton has not yet ruled on a second motion requesting reconsideration of the sentence.
Arnold's attorney, Heidi Eakin, said a decision on whether to appeal to Superior Court would hinge on how Braxton rules on the motion for reconsideration.
"This is going to drag out. It could drag out for months. It could drag out for a year," Eakin said.
Arnold is to begin a chemotherapy regimen in the coming weeks.
A spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted, has declined to comment on Eakin's motion for reconsideration or Braxton's sentence.
The term far exceeds the state's maximum sentencing recommendations as well as sentences given to several other Pennsylvania district judges in criminal cases.
In 1990, judge Carl Henry was given five years' probation and ordered to perform community service for stealing traffic fines from his Parkesburg court. In March, Lancaster District Judge Kelly Ballentine was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine for fixing two of her own parking tickets. She was suspended but is now back on the bench.
Family and friends at Monday's protest said Arnold was blindsided by the sentence and had anticipated probation or home confinement. The group - a sea of magenta shirts, pale pink ribbons, and pops of fuchsia lipstick - stood on the sidewalk for more than five hours, chanting "Free Rita" and cheering as passing drivers pressed on their horns.
Jessica Giera, whom Arnold coached in cheerleading when she was in middle school, described Arnold as a warm and inspiring mother figure who constantly "fought and fought and fought" to make sure her team had the best equipment and resources.
"It's hard because of the position that she was in as a judge. But she's a mom first, and I think that's what it comes down to for her," said the 21-year-old Giera. "And I know she did anything for us as cheerleaders. So I know she would do anything for her kids. And I feel like she knows she did wrong, and she admitted to it."