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.”
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.