NEW YORK, FEB. 26 -- Peter N. Brant, a key figure in the insider trading scandal involving Wall Street Journal reporter R. Foster Winans, was sentenced today to eight months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Brant, a former $2 million-a-year stockbroker at Kidder Peabody & Co. Inc., has been serving as a government witness and had faced a maximum sentence of 15 years. He pleaded guilty in July 1984 to two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy.

Brant made illegal stock trades based on information leaked to him by Winans, then author of the Journal's influential "Heard on the Street" column. Winans told Brant which companies would be written about favorably in upcoming columns so that Brant could buy shares before the stocks' value rose as a result of the column. In a five-month period in 1983, Brant made a profit of $700,000.

At the request of Brant's attorney and with no objection from the government, federal Judge Charles Stewart allowed Brant to serve his prison term on weekends. Stewart also put Brant on probation for five years and ordered him to perform 750 hours of community service.

Stewart told Brant that he was guilty of "very substantial crimes, at least as guilty as Winans and perhaps more so. But I'm getting a very clear impression that you are trying to rehabilitate yourself."

Winans is serving an 18-month jail term.

Brant, 35, accompanied by his wife to the Manhattan courtroom, told the judge, "I have paid a considerable price for my errors in judgment. I would hope you would view my situation with leniency."

Brant has already paid $454,000 of the profits he made to the government as part of his settlement. He has also paid $1.2 million in restitution to Roger Wilson Jr., a client whom he defrauded.

The sentence comes at a time when the government is in the midst of an investigation of other possible cases of insider trading and securities fraud. Saying that the government relies heavily on cooperating defendants to unravel complex and well-concealed securities schemes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl H. Loewenson asked the judge to send a message that those who work with the government "can expect significant benefits."

"The government does not believe that the need to deter Brant from future violations of the law should play a significant role in the determination of his sentence. Brant has already learned his lesson," Loewenson said.

He emphasized that the need to deter other individuals from securities crime "must be balanced in Brant's case against the need to provide incentives for wrongdoers to cooperate with the government."

Brant's attorney, Stephen Weiner, told the judge that his client's cooperative testimony was crucial to the government's case against Winans and three other coconspirators, and that the judge "ought to send a loud and clear signal that cooperation will be recognized. Severe penalties will have a chilling effect on future cooperation," Weiner said.

After the sentencing, a smiling Brant appeared pleased at the outcome but declined to comment.

"I think the sentence is fair," Loewenson said. "The judge balanced the seriousness of the crime with the extent of the cooperation."

Weiner said Brant "appreciates the weekend provision so he can still work and support his family."

Brant, who has been barred by the SEC from working in the securities business, is employed as a sales manager for Biz-Tel, a long-distance telephone company in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He sold his million-dollar estate on Long Island and is living with his wife and 4-year-old child in a two-bedroom apartment in West Palm Beach.

Brant testified at length in the trials of Winans, Winans' roommate David Carpenter and former Kidder broker Kenneth P. Felis. Brant was also the star prosecution witness at the trial of David Clark, a New York lawyer and former friend with whose Kidder account Brant made the illegal trades. Clark died of alcoholism shortly before he was to be sentenced.