Arnold decision is an embarassment to all of us

District justice admits to lying, covering up complaint, gets a slap on the wrist

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
For some time, it’s been increasingly apparent that there are two Americas. One for most of us, where the law is, at times, harsh and unforgiving — one reason why this country has a larger number of imprisoned people than any other western democracy.

There is an entirely other America — and Chester County — if you have “juice.” In that America, if you have the right price, the right friends and the right high-powered attorney, the trip is more like a limo ride through the system.

Money, power, and political connections are increasingly a “get out of jail free” card for those who break the law and then are not answerable for their actions. We can list any number of recent events — just a quick look at the client list from one or two of the county’s “fixer” law firms offers a few highlights, not to mention the price of getting in the way when said fix is in — that illustrate that the rich and powerful get a different trip through the justice system than we average folks.

As horrifying as that is with the common sort of spoiled rich kid who gets drunk and kills someone in their yuppie-mobile, it is far, far worse when someone who has been given the public trust to sit in judgment of others admits to lying and essentially obstructing justice and gets little more than a slap on the wrist.

This is the case with District Justice Rita Arnold — a long-time district justice whose area includes Birmingham Township.

By her own admission, Arnold admits to lying to investigators and asking a district court employee to lie on her behalf, after she sat on an assault charge against her son, Forrest “Forrie” C. Solomon Jr., who apparently was charged after an altercation with her other son, Jonathan Arnold. Solomon, who has a fairly lengthy history of criminal charges, was on probation at the time, but his probation officer never learned of the new charges because Rita Arnold covered them up — charges that could have sent him back to jail.

And make no mistake, Arnold knew what she was doing: Her office manager testified that she was instructed by Arnold to hold on to the complaint so that Solomon’s probation status would not change. She then, according to testimony, lied to State Police troopers who inquired about the status of the case. Then she moved the case to a neighboring district justice, Mark Bruno, without anything like a blessing from President Judge James P. MacElree III— who is responsible for assigning cases in such situations.

Arnold admits to all of this; none of the facts of the case are in dispute.

So, if this was any of us normal folks, the immediate question would be: “How long are you going to jail?”

But not for Arnold. She’s not even losing her job — just a month’s suspension without pay. She even gets to keep her medical benefits. This comes after months of what was effectively a paid vacation. That was the judgment of the state’s Judicial Conduct Board — one from here that seems completely without merit.

Let’s be clear: She lied to investigators. She instructed employees to lie on her behalf and she covered up a criminal complaint that would have likely sent her son back to prison.

These are not just a matter of professional misconduct, but crimes, starting with obstruction of justice.

But instead, Arnold will be back on the bench sooner rather than later, sitting in judgment of others when it is evident that she lacks anything like the judgment to be a responsible citizen, let alone a judge.

So we have to ask: Where is the grand jury investigation? Where is the public outcry from those who claim to support the rule of law? Where is the common decency that demands that Arnold resign from the bench immediately?

Maybe those things only apply in the America of us average folks. If you’ve got the money, the power, the political connections, you get to live in an entirely different America, where the rules don’t apply.

I wish there was some pithy way to wrap this up in a nice bow, but the truth of it is this: It stinks to high heavens. It makes me embarrassed to live in Chester County.

For the life of me, I don’t know how I’m going to answer the inevitable question from my kids when they read these stories.

“Dad, if judges can break the law and not be punished, why can’t we?”

Damned if I have a good answer to that. Maybe you do.

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  1. Do You know anything mike or are you just mad she not your mom. I wish she was mine. And my President at least she true to her own first.She hasnt sat this long for nothing. She is loved. Mrs. Arnold its my turn Now! Please Dont Quit (we need you!) Thank you for helping me.

      • Mike McGann says:

        Yes — why wouldn’t I? The state criminal charges against further reenforce the fact that should she have resigned long ago and the judicial review board erred in allowing her to keep her position. Those who dispense justice must be trusted to stay within the law — always. From the criminal charges and her own admissions, Ms. Arnold did not meet that standard.

  2. I meant Mrs Arnold is a good and fair person. Which judge or person should cast the first stone. Which Judge or person. None. So shut up and get back to saving lives. I believe it was between two brothers. 1 brother is an police officer.( they dont lie?) Maybe thats the favor. They are brothers first. Sounds like a set up. At least she has a good cop for a son.He knew his bothers issues and used them aganist him. Judge cox let me off when my bother and I fought. He broke my nose and jaw.I tapped him in the head with a hammer he got 14 stiches.50 dollar fine. happend in Downingtown. get back to work

  3. I dont know much about Mr. Arnold other then she help save my life. While i was have a problem with drugs for 7 years. It was Mrs Arnold and judge Woods {retired priesident judge}that kept my spirits high. By giving up on me this repeated repeated offender (African american male.) Mrs. Aronld does’nt know me personally.But she never gave up because she’s a mother first. Always was always will. Thats why she sits for us. Also why i went to college and finished.Worked with along side Paula Dean at Qvc as a food stylist. I wil not foget those 7 years. Thank you Mrs.Rita i love you A. Brazz

  4. Don Silknitter says:

    Mike, you hit the nail on the head!! Keep up the good work.

  5. Gypsy says:

    You said it Mike. All a criminal needs to get off the hook in Chester County is for a few well-connected friends to attest to the person’s “good character” and the judge will let him or her off every time. I just laugh when I drive past the multi-million dollar boondoggle called the Justice Center in downtown West Chester, looming over and mocking us ordinary citizens. I don’t know- maybe it’s the same everywhere. As Kristin’s comment suggests, collectively we get the government (and justice system) we deserve.

  6. Kristin Hoover says:

    My question is why anybody would be shocked by this? This is exactly what happens when people decide that “politics” is a dirty business and they decide they don’t need to vote or be involved. When you only have two political parties and one of them controls all of the political connections, then they also control all of the power and money that go with it. When people run unopposed and all politics is one sided, then it is inevitable that there will be “get out of jail free” cards and other abuses of power. Lord Acton said that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” John Caro expanded on that theme when he said that absolute power also reveals. It’s pretty revealing to see what people do with unchecked power. Politics may be a dirty business, but it’s how the country runs.

  7. dave Conard says:

    well said Mike, so i guess you wont be spearheading her re election campaign

  8. Dan says:

    Mike, When I saw the first article this morning my first thought was exactly what you are saying – there are two sets of rules – them and us… What she did was not a one shot deal – it lasted over days if not weeks with numerous opportunities for her to correct what even she must have realized was wrong. Then to have Judicial Board to let her slide is an indictment on them – no wonder people have lost faith in our judicial system!! For shame on all of them….

    • Grace says:

      Mike, you are so right. Can someone tell me what was Judge Brun’s prt in all this? Did he know it was a cover up? How do we call for Arnold to resign? If some onecould guide the people maybe we can force the law to work in our favor. Arnold is a neighbor andI know I will never vote for her again, she fooled me once she will never fool me again.

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