A former D.C. police lieutenant and onetime roommate of former police chief Larry D. Soulsby was sentenced yesterday to nearly two years in prison on charges of theft, wire fraud and extortion.

Before his sentencing, a nervous Jeffery S. Stowe told Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan how he had turned his life around since he pleaded guilty to felony charges in January 1998, saying he spent most of the time regretting his crimes.

Stowe, 48, admitted leasing a luxury downtown apartment under false pretenses for Soulsby, stealing $55,000 in police funds and carrying out an extortion scheme against married men who were seen outside an adult theater that was popular with gay patrons.

"What I did was reprehensible," Stowe declared. "It's something I think about every night and sometimes through the day. It was a low point in my life. I had my financial back against the wall, and I made some very bad decisions."

Stowe's guilty plea came in a broader probe into corruption on the D.C. force. Soulsby resigned in November 1997, hours after Stowe was arrested, saying he wanted to spare the department further controversy. Soulsby was never charged. Stowe, meanwhile, agreed to cooperate in the probe and has remained free ever since.

Instead of uncovering wrongdoing within the police department, the probe rooted out corruption in the D.C.-based ironworkers union. The union's former president, Jake West, who dined and played golf with Soulsby and Stowe, was among those convicted of stealing union money.

Prosecutors repeatedly postponed Stowe's sentencing while the investigation continued. While awaiting his day in court, Stowe went to college and wound up with a $120,000-a-year job for IBM. Yesterday he told the judge, "I feel that I've taken great steps toward rehabilitating myself."

Allegations about Stowe came to light in 1997, prompting the investigation by the FBI, the D.C. police and U.S. attorney's office.

Prosecutors said that in September 1996, Stowe struck a cut-rate lease at the Lansburgh apartments. Stowe and Soulsby were living in the unit for $650 a month, instead of paying the going rate of at least $3,000. Stowe got the deal fraudulently, telling building managers that he needed the unit for a police operation. Soulsby has said that he was unaware of any deception.

Prosecutors also said that, from 1995 to 1997, Stowe stole $55,000 from the police department's witness protection fund, which is used to lodge and protect witnesses, and from another fund used for expenses made during undercover investigations.

The extortion charge stemmed from activities in the fall of 1997. Prosecutors said Stowe went to a Southeast Washington theater known to be frequented by gay men. He identified two patrons, used law enforcement databases to learn more about them, and then threatened to tell their families and friends about where they were seen. He set up a mailbox for the men to drop off thousands of dollars in hush money, prosecutors said. At the time, Stowe was commander of the department's special investigations section.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven W. Pelak told the judge yesterday that while Stowe had been "forthright and honest" in the years after the crimes, the offenses that he committed could not be ignored.

Pelak said Stowe's actions hurt not only the police department but also the criminal justice system.

"His actions challenge people's faith in the criminal justice system," Pelak said. "It denigrated good police officers, those men and women who do good work every day."

Stowe could have faced up to 41 months in prison. But because of his assistance in the ironworkers union case -- which led to guilty pleas from seven union officials and employees -- Pelak sought a sentence of up to 27 months and a fine of $75,000.

Stowe's attorney, G. Allen Dale, told the court that his client had suffered enough in the past six years, mostly from media coverage. Dale said Stowe lost his IBM job this week after a news article recapped the case. He urged Hogan to impose no prison time and instead sentence Stowe to five years' probation.

Of Stowe's 20 years as a police officer, Dale said, "Even though he turned out to be a bad apple, he wasn't always a bad apple."

But Hogan said he was surprised at the severity of Stowe's conduct. "With 20 years as a police officer, it amazes me that you should be guilty of conduct of this reprehensible nature," the judge said.

"This type of activity by a senior police officer cannot be ignored . . . even if you've done good things afterward," he added.

In what he called a "difficult decision," the judge sentenced Stowe to 23 months in a federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service. He prohibited Stow from returning to law enforcement work.

The judge also ordered Stowe to pay a $10,000 fine as well as $55,000 in restitution to the police department. Stowe has already paid the restitution.

Stowe is expected to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons sometime in the next six weeks.

Ex-D.C. police officer Jeffery S. Stowe, right, leaves court with attorney G. Allen Dale. "What I did was reprehensible," Stowe said.