Thursday, October 3, 2002
State Bar Suspends Mentally Ill Attorney Following Convictions for Bouncing Check, Assault
By ALLISON LOMAS, Staff Writer
A Los Angeles lawyer has been suspended by the State Bar of California after being convicted of bouncing a check and assaulting her mother.
The State Bar suspended Allison Paula Perrine, 38, on Sept. 10. The previously self-employed family and immigration lawyer said she suffers from bi-polar disorder and that the disease produced hallucinations that caused her to commit the crimes.
Perrine pled guilty in July to charges that she bounced a check in March 2000. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Alfred Coletta said Perrine wrote a check for $2,980.12 at a Long Beach toy store called The Painted Lady on a Sanwa Bank account.
Perrine said that the bank had closed the account after a client wrote her a bad check. She added that she was not aware the account was closed until she was properly medicated.
She blamed the incident on what she said was an improper prescription by the doctor who first diagnosed her as suffering from bipolar disorder in 2000. She said she had hallucinations that she had all the money in the world and that she was in a Christmas store buying presents for her family.
“I was hallucinating,” she said. “When you are bipolar you think grandiose thoughts.”
Dr. Susan Zachariah, a doctor of psychiatry and neurology who is currently treating Perrine, sent a letter to the court explaining that she was not properly medicated at the time of the incident, Coletta said.
Although the prosecutor asked for a nominal amount of jail time, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani “felt that under the circumstances that this was an aberration of her conduct due to mental illness not due to a criminal disposition” and suspended the two-year prison sentence, Coletta said.
Coletta said that the facts that Perrine was a licensed attorney and a woman in her 30s with no criminal record were mitigating factors.
Perrine was placed on three years probation and ordered to pay restitution to Sanwa Bank for any losses it incurred. Under the terms of her probation, Perrine is not allowed to possess or write checks and is not allowed to maintain a checking account.
It was Perrine’s second criminal conviction. She was convicted in August 2001 of assaulting her 70-year old mother, Paulina Perrine, in the bathroom of their home. Orange Superior Court Judge Michael Beecher sentenced her to three years probation, during which time she is not allowed to have contact with her mother, including communicating via telephone or mail.
Perrine called the separation from her mother very difficult because they have a close relationship and always have lived together.
She said she entered the bathroom and mistook her mother for her formerly abusive lover.
Paulina Perrine said her daughter was mumbling and that her behavior scared her. The lawyer’s brother-in-law restrained her while her sister called the police.
Perrine says that she did not intend to harm her mother and that her behavior was caused by her mental illness.
The police had already been to the house at least once that day, recalled Paulina Perrine, who had called them because she was concerned about her daughter’s behavior, but at that time the police said they had no authority to do anything. When the police responded to the call by Perrine’s sister they declined to take Perrine to the hospital as her mother requested.
“They took her like she was a criminal,” Perrine’s mother said.
Allison Perrine said her mental illness was caused by an abusive relationship she had with a client soon after becoming a member of the bar. She never told anyone, including her mother, about the abuse until she became ill.
“I think this experience has made me a better lawyer,” Perrine said, adding that she has become “more compassionate and much more sensitive” as a result of spending 70 days at the Orange County jail awaiting a hearing in the assault case.
Perrine said her attorney, Patrick Rossetti of the firm Rossetti, Farmer and Workman, expects to set a hearing date to fight the State Bar suspension. Rossetti did not return call for comment.
“I want people to know that professionals can have an illness and still work. . . I am willing to work and I have the ability to work,” Perrine said, adding:
“I have already paid my debt to society, gone through the court process and been put on probation.”
She also commented that her clients have suffered as a result of her suspension.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company