The defense lawyer for Joan M. Booth, who was convicted of conspiracy and tax evasion in connection with the management of the Clifton Terrace apartments in the mid-1970s, told a federal judge yesterday his client had "suffered a great deal" and should not be sent to jail.

Instead, attorney Thomas Abbenante urged U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn to send Booth, 39, to a halfway house for six months so she could continue to work at her secretarial job, and to require her to perform 1,000 hours of community service and pay the federal government the $4,571 in 1976 income taxes she evaded.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie G. Dorsey said Booth, a former official of P.I. Properties Inc., the firm that owned and managed the Northwest Washington complex, "made a conscious decision . . . to commit the crimes" and should be given "nothing short of substantial sentences" on both charges.

Booth, who once was the Clifton Terrace project manager and now works at the National Governors Association, faces up to 10 years' imprisonment and fines totaling $20,000. Penn set sentencing for Sept. 21.

After listening to the lawyers' arguments, three character witnesses for Booth and a plea for leniency from Booth's daughter, Michelle, a sophomore at Harvard, Penn said he had an "open mind" on what sentence to impose.

But the judge told Booth, who pleaded guilty last October, that after hearing evidence against her during the recent nine-week trial of Booth's older sister, Mary Treadwell, "it seems quite clear . . . that you are clearly guilty."

A jury in late July convicted Treadwell, the former head of the now-defunct Youth Pride job-training program and P.I. Properties, its real estate affiliate, of conspiring to defraud the federal government and Clifton Terrace tenants and of making seven false statements to the government. Her lawyers have asked Penn to overturn the verdict, and no sentencing date has been set for Treadwell.

The amount of funds distributed this week under the Job Training Partnership Act was reported incorrectly yesterday. The figure is $26.8 million.