In the Matter of Fawn Balliro

453 Mass. 75 (2009)

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In the Matter of Fawn Balliro

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
453 Mass. 75 (2009)

  • Written by Haley Gintis, JD

Facts

In March 2005, Massachusetts assistant district attorney Fawn Balliro and her partner, Greg Knox, went to a bar in Tennessee. Knox became angry when Balliro spoke to another man. Knox knocked Balliro to the ground and left. Balliro received a ride to Knox’s apartment from a police officer. When Balliro entered the apartment, Knox physically assaulted her. Balliro told the officers arriving at the scene that she had been assaulted while walking back to Knox’s apartment. Her story was contradicted by the officer who had given her the ride. Knox was charged with misdemeanor domestic assault. Knox informed Balliro that he would likely be incarcerated and was concerned for his daughters. Balliro then told the assistant district attorney that she did not want to testify. However, Balliro was called to testify and testified that she had fallen. The charges against Knox were dropped, and the Massachusetts district attorney was informed that Balliro had falsely testified. Balliro was suspended from work, and a petition for discipline was filed with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (board). A hearing committee of the board heard testimony from Balliro that she had not known she had testified falsely because she had convinced herself of her own story. However, an evaluating psychiatrist testified that Balliro knew her story was false and that she had perjured herself because she believed it was necessary to protect her abuser. Balliro’s treating psychologist testified that Balliro was unlikely to falsely testify again. The hearing committee concluded that Balliro had knowingly falsely testified under oath. Although the typical disciplinary action for false testimony is a two-year suspension, the committee found that mitigating circumstances were present and recommended Balliro receive public reprimand instead of a suspension. The decision was issued by the board. The bar counsel then filed a review with the court, claiming that Knox should receive a one-year-and-one-day suspension.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Spina, J.)

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