CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. – The jurors never fell under her spell.
A Long Island teacher who said she was fired from her job because administrators mistakenly thought she was a witch was powerless to do anything Tuesday as a jury rejected her claim and her $2 million lawsuit.
The seven-member jury deliberated for only an hour before deciding that Lauren Berrios, 37, wasn't entitled to any money from her ex-employer. The trial began March 7.
Berrios, 37, who denied ever practicing witchcraft, sued the Hampton Bays school 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 Steven 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.
Berrios now works as a teacher in the Atlanta area.