Sharon Victoria Rector, who pleaded guilty last March in D.C. Superior Court to the kidnapping of a day-old infant last summer from George Washington University Hospital, was given a suspended 15-year sentence yesterday and placed on probation for five years.

Judge Frederick Weisberg placed Rector, 20, on strict probation, which includes extensive psychiatric counseling and 300 hours of unpaid community service.

"I cannot conclude at this time that putting Miss Rector in jail, no matter for how many years, would be a meaningful conclusion [to this case]," Weisberg said. "I believe Miss Rector is not presently a danger to our community. All of the doctors seem to conclude that this is the case.

"Miss Rector's motives were not malicious. They were sick. This is borne out by the careful way she cared for the child."

Rector, whose voice broke as she addressed the judge, said, "I would like to apologize to Miss Jackson and her husband for what I've done. I didn't do it out of hatred. I did it because I lost my baby and I needed someone who needed me."

The baby was taken from his mother's hospital room July 6 when she left to respond to a telephone call. The mother, Linda Jackson, said that a female caller told her she was wanted in another part of the hospital to sign some papers.When she returned to her room, the infant was gone.

D.C. police and FBI agents searched for the baby for three days. Finally, acting on a telephone tip on July 9, police arranged a meeting at Fort Dupont Park, where the baby was returned by Rector's brother, Donald. f

Neighbors in a Southeast neighborhood near the park said Sharon Rector brought the child to the community and cared for the infant "like it was hers." b