Dominican judge orders arrest in US magician case
Wayne Houchin received burns to his scalp, face and arms
By Ezequiel Abiu Lopez
A judge on Tuesday ordered the arrest of a local television show host who set fire to the hair of a US magician, burning his scalp, face and arm.
The judge announced the decision just hours after TV host Franklin Barazarte told The Associated Press in a phone interview from New York that the incident was an accident. He tossed flaming liquid on Wayne Houchin's head as a "blessing" during a Nov. 26 taping of the show.
Barazarte, who was serving as guest host on an astrology and variety show called Closer to the Stars, couldn't be immediately reached for comment after the judge issued his decision.
He said during the interview that he was in the US this week for previously scheduled work commitments.
"I'm not hiding. I hope to sit down with Wayne and reach a settlement," Barazarte said. "It was a demonstration within a magical religious framework that turned out badly."
In a widely viewed video that a member of the magician's crew captured on his IPhone and posted online, Barazarte is seen trying to pat Houchin's head after it is set on fire.
"It was an accident. It was under no circumstance an intentional act," Barazarte said.
He said that he had performed similar blessings for more than 20 years and that "none of them had ever turned out badly." He said his hands also were burned during the incident.
Monica Pena, a spokeswoman for the Dominican prosecutors' office, said a doctor certified that Houchin suffered first-degree burns on his scalp, face and right arm.
Houchin said in an email Monday to the AP that he was seeking legal action.
"The attack was intentional. The host didn't trip and accidentally spill it on me. He intended to pour flaming liquid on me," Houchin wrote.
Houchin, a 29-year-old from Chico, California, who recently finished a season as a host of the Discovery Channel show "Breaking Magic," came to the Dominican Republic with his wife as part of the "Curiosities 2012" tour. He and two other magicians expected to be interviewed and perform magic on the local program.
When Houchin came on stage, Barazarte said he wanted to give him a blessing and asked another magician, BJ Bueno, to give him a bottle of "Agua de Florida," a highly flammable cologne used in Santeria rituals. Barazarte then asked Houchin's wife to pour the cologne into his hands and asked Bueno to light the fluid. He then doused the fluid on Houchin's head.
Houchin is still receiving medical treatment in the Dominican Republic.
Barazarte said he had tried to contact Houchin without success. He added that while he understood the pain caused, he expressed resentment over the position taken by Houchin and others.
"They're treating me like a criminal," Barazarte said.
Warning video contains material that some viewers may find disturbing