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Crystal River cuts fee for psychics

Faced with the threat of possible legal action, City Council this week agreed to lower occupational license fees and consider adopting different kinds of restrictions on psychics and mediums.

Details of the new license fees and restrictions will be prepared by the city staff and considered at a future council meeting, the council decided Monday evening.

The move to reduce the $78.10 a day occupational license fee came at the request of local palmist and medium Theresa Johnson, who hopes to move her business from east of town to inside the city limits.

Her attorney, Charles Horn, told the council that their fee was prohibitive and could be seen as a violation of Johnson's constitutional rights.

The issue also captured the attention of Brian O'Connell, a local man known for his street preaching on area roadways. "I come here representing the Most High God," he said.

O'Connell addressed the council reading a passage from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy that condemned the practices of fortunetelling and talking to the dead.

He urged the council to keep its high license fees because if psychics were allowed to populate the city, "we're going to have a place that looks like New Orleans."

City Manager Merv Waldrop had expressed concern in a memo to the council that the city might end up looking more like a different town: Cassadaga, a central Florida community that is home to a colony of spiritualists.

But Waldrop said in his memo and during Monday's council meeting that, in order to avoid a legal action that the city would have trouble defending, the council should consider changing its license fee.

"The problem is, who's going to pay our legal fees" if an action is brought, said city attorney William Catto.

"God will defend you," O'Connell responded from his seat in the audience.

Horn suggested that the city consider adopting the same kind of ordinance that the county recently did. That ordinance provides protections for the community, including protections that Horn said would guard against unscrupulous psychics' bilking customers.

The county's ordinance includes a residency requirement, prohibitions against anyone convicted of a crime, distance requirements between similar businesses and investigations into the psychic's business.

"My client believes that there is good reason for imposing this strict an ordinance on their particular field," Horn said.