Quick Notes: Rachelle Waterman Case, Dan Halloran’s Slowdown Battle, and Romania’s Witch Queen

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A few quick news notes for you today.

Did Religious Conflict Play A Role? The News Tribune in Alaska reports on the retrial of Rachelle Waterman, accused of plotting the 2004 death of her mother with two older men when she was 16. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, and now the Ketchikan District Attorney is trying again with a second indictment. At issue in Waterman’s defense is whether she truly meant for the two men to kill her mother, and what her mental state was at the time she allegedly discussed having her mother killed. In recent testimony from the woman’s father, Carl “Doc” Waterman, he claims that there was religious conflict in the home.

“He said Lauri was stricter on Rachelle than he was on some things but he never saw any evidence she hit their daughter and Rachelle never told him about anything like that. Neither of them used physical punishment, Waterman said under questioning by prosecutor Jean Seaton of Sitka. Other witnesses have testified that Rachelle told them her mother tried to push her down the stairs, became angry if her grades slipped, and withheld food, telling her she was fat. Prosecutors say she told even more to Jason Arrant and Brian Radel, the men who carried out the killing. Lauri Waterman was a strict Catholic and was upset when Waterman began experimenting with Wicca, a pagan religion and form of witchcraft, Doc Waterman said.”

This case got a lot of Internet buzz when it first made the news in 2004, due to the fact that Waterman had (and still has) a LiveJournal account. Many noted that Waterman claimed to have been grounded over her interest in Wicca (among other things). Now it’s for the jury to decide if grown two men in their 20s (one of whom was dating Waterman) took the irrational rantings of a disgruntled teenager as mandate for murder, or if Waterman, as the prosecution attests, was the mastermind for the killing. I’ll keep you posted as this case develops.

Dan Halloran and the New York Snow Removal Controversy: The New York Times looks at the ongoing story regarding allegations that New York City sanitation workers staged a slowdown after the Dec. 26 blizzard. At the center of this story is New York City councilman (and out Heathen) Dan Halloran, who claims that sanitation workers came to his office and informed him of the planned slowdown (allegedly to embarrass Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg). But evidence has been hard to pin down, and Halloran currently risks professional embarrassment. Recently, Halloran has been softening his story as he nears giving testimony to a federal  grand jury.

In an article that appeared in The New York Post on Dec. 30, he said the workers had been told “to take off routes” and “not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner.” “They were told to make the mayor pay,” Mr. Halloran said in the article, “for the layoffs, the reductions in rank of the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank and file.” More recently, the councilman has said the workers were not explicitly told to take part in a slowdown, but were subtly informed there was no need to rush while clearing the snow.

The NYT piece runs down Halloran’s career so far, including his election as an out Theodsman, run-ins with parking enforcement, and recent bankruptcy and divorce proceedings. Halloran now says that his goal “was never to make headlines or anger people,” but that damage may already be done, and he could be forced to give up the names of those who came to him when he testifies. For more on Dan Halloran, check out this recent Pagan+Politics interview.

BBC and a Witch Queen: The Romanian witch tax story keeps on chugging along, this time the BBC interviews “Queen Witch” Mama Bratara, who has threatened to curse the lawmakers.

“Life for witches, astrologers and spiritual mediums in Romania has always been tough. Under the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, the supernatural industry was banned, and now witches say they are being hit again – this time by new tax laws. Once Ceausescu was ousted from power the witches re-emerged to carry on their craft. Their work has a considerable following, particularly in rural areas. Now the government has angered the witches again by making them register as self-employed and requiring them to pay tax, social security, and pension contributions.”

I recommend checking out the video embedded in the story, which gives an interesting look at the formidable Mama Bratara.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!