The jury deliberated for an hour before deciding that Lauren Berrios, 37, wasn’t entitled to any money from the Hampton Bays school district, her ex-employer. The trial began March 7.
“I think the jury saw this for what it was — a publicity stunt,” said attorney Steven C. Stern, who represented the district. “We’re glad the district can put this chapter behind them.”
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Berrios, who denied ever practicing witchcraft, sued the Long Island district in 2001 after she was dismissed from her job as a reading specialist teacher. After two years, she was denied tenure and let go.
The school district claimed its decision came because Berrios did not get along with co-workers, had a condescending attitude and conjured stories about phantom injuries to her son.
Her attorney, John Ray, said in opening statements that Berrios was a victim of prejudice from her school’s principal, Andrew Albano, a born-again Christian. Albano fired her after deciding that Berrios was a witch, according to Ray.
Defense attorney Stern told the jurors that Berrios had told co-workers about visiting a coven meeting, but was not fired for being a witch. Instead, Stern said, she was a bizarre “storyteller” who fabricated tales that her husband was involved in a plane crash, and that her 2-year-old son lost his fingers in a VCR accident.
“These are always difficult cases,” Ray said. “We’re sad, but it proves Lauren is not a witch.”
Berrios now works as a teacher in the Atlanta area. She planned to fly home later Tuesday.
“I’m looking forward to just getting back to my children and my family,” said the mother of two.