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SALEM, Mass. — Two legal cases that brought widespread attention to “America’s Witch City” this past year each had their day in court toward the end of October. One was a harassment suit filed by Lori Bruno Sforza against Christian Day; the other was a charge of disturbing the peace against animal activist Lorelei Stathopoulos.The “Witch vs Warlock” harassment case titillated headline writers leading up to the busy 2015 October season in Salem. Sforza, who once had a business relationship with Day, claimed that he had been calling her in the middle of the night to spout threats and obscenities. It is a claim that he has repeatedly denied.
A 2015 restraining order against Day, which was filed during the original court date, was not renewed when the case came before a judge last week. It was reportedly impossible to prove that Day made any such phone calls.
Whether the lack of evidence of Day’s guilt is synonymous with his exoneration is dependent on who is being asked. Sforza tried to leave room for doubt by noting that it’s possible to “spoof” phone numbers, or make it appear that a call is coming from some place it isn’t.
“He’s said in the past that he could hide his number,” Sforza said, but she is not challenging the decision and will not pursue the case further. “The judge took away the restraining order, but told me I could file one again.”
Day had a different take. “Unfortunately, the judge would not vacate the old order, which is a shame, but the evidence certainly demonstrated that I could not have made those phone calls. All calls between 2 am and 3 am, which is when she claimed they were in her affidavit, came from a Comcast land line. The nearest place where Comcast landline is available is 29 miles away in LaPlace, Louisiana. Then her lawyer said I spoofed a number which I’d never even heard of until two days ago, but then I am quite skeptical. Even if you can make one number look different to a caller ID, I don’t imagine you can trick Verizon servers into seeing a wholly different carrier.”
Both Day and Sforza claim to have been unfamiliar with the term “spoofing” until recent days. In a phone interview about the case, Day observed that rather than going to such lengths, “I would have bought a burner phone at Wal-Mart.”
Something else they agree upon is that the case didn’t put Salem’s Witch community in a flattering light. Sforza said it made them look like fools or clowns, while Day called it “embarrassing.” He’s aware of at least two major newspapers in European countries that ran stories on the spat, he said.
Sforza may be ready to end it in her own way, as well. “Mr. Day should understand that all I want is for him to be successful, and leave me alone,” she said during a phone interview. “I don’t wish him harm. I wish him nothing. Is that so much to ask?”
The two had a professional relationship from 2009-2012, when Sforza performed psychic readings in one of Day’s shops before opening her own. Whether that relationship soured before or after her decision to move is unclear. But it was thereafter characterized by accusations of abuse. Day has not denied making comments or posting cartoons that attacked Sforza’s credibility, for example, but he claims that’s within the bounds of free speech. At the same time, he has accused Sforza of posting his social security number online through a surrogate, Ronald French.
“I don’t deny saying I would urinate on his grave,” Sforza said. “It’s an old Italian tradition.”
“I have dignity,” Sforza said. “No priestess should consent to being called the c-word. Dignity for our women! Dignity for our men. It cannot be bought for the promise of a business partnership,” a promise she has asserted Day made but never fulfilled. “I want him to be a multi-millionaire and enjoy himself. But what will he say of his life when his soul is weighed against the feather of Ma’at?”
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An entirely separate Salem case began after Lorelei Stathopoulos was called to assist a dog that had been left in a parked car on a hot day last July. Stathopoulos runs Salem Saves Animals, and immediately rushed to the scene to do whatever was necessary to save the animal from heatstroke, including breaking a window if necessary. When police officers responded, they only issued the dog’s owner a warning, and Stathopoulous herself arrested for disturbing the peace.
In a video posted to the rescue group’s Facebook page, Stathopoulos explained the verdict. The judge agreed that she had indeed disturbed the peace for one person, but chose not to levy a fine or impose any other penalty. According to a report on the Salem News site, the charge was reduced to a civil infraction.
When she learned that a man had left his dog in a parked car, she demanded police officers take the dog’s temperature and they charge the owner. When police decided not to do either, she attempted to prevent the dog’s owner from leaving the scene, leading to her arrest on the disturbance of the peace charge.
Several calls made to Stathopoulos’ place of business were not returned in time for publication.
In her video message, she asserts that the judge commended her work with animals. Complaining that the Salem News article was one-sided, she has posted additional details about the proceedings on Facebook, including that one of the officers misrepresented how hot it was the day of the incident.