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Amish Beard Cutting Arrests: FBI Detains Sam Mullet And Six Others Following Attacks

Sam Mullet

THOMAS J. SHEERAN and JOHN SEEWER   11/23/11 07:30 PM ET   AP

MILLERSBURG, Ohio — The leader of a breakaway Amish group allowed the beatings of those who disobeyed him, made some members sleep in a chicken coop and had sexual relations with married women to "cleanse them," federal authorities said Wednesday as they charged him and six others with hate crimes in hair-cutting attacks against other Amish.

Authorities raided the group's compound in eastern Ohio earlier in the day and arrested seven men, including group leader Sam Mullet and three of his sons.

Several members of the group carried out the attacks in September, October and November by forcibly cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women and then taking photos of them, authorities said.

Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry. One victim told the FBI he would rather have been "beaten black and blue than to suffer the disfigurement and humiliation of having his hair removed," according to court papers.

The attacks struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. They are pacifists and strongly believe that they must be forgiving in order for God to forgive them, which often means handing out their own punishment and not reporting crimes to law enforcement.

The attacks had terrorized Amish communities, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said at a news conference Wednesday.

"You've got Amish all over the state of Ohio and Pennsylvania and Indiana that are concerned. We've received hundreds and hundreds of calls from people living in fear," he said. "They are buying Mace, some are sitting with shotguns, getting locks on their doors because of Sam Mullet."

The sheriff added, "Sam Mullet is evil."

A defense attorney for Sam Mullet said his client would fight the federal charges.

Mullet told The Associated Press in October that he didn't order the hair-cutting but didn't stop his sons and others from carrying it out. He said the goal was to send a message to other Amish that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community.

"They changed the rulings of our church here, and they're trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we're not going to do that," Mullet said.

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said Wednesday that religious differences should be a matter of theological debate, not disputes "resolved by late night visits to people's homes with weapons and violent attacks." He said he did not know how often hate crimes involve intradenominational disputes.

Those arrested include Mullet; his sons Johnny, Lester and Daniel; Levi Miller; Eli Miller; and Emanuel Schrock. The charges carry a penalty of up 10 years in prison.

The men appeared in U.S. District Court in Youngstown on Wednesday afternoon, and Magistrate Judge George Limbert ordered them detained by the U.S. Marshals Service pending hearings next week.

Attorneys for Johnny and Lester Mullet and Levi and Eli Miller said they could not comment Wednesday on the details of the case. Messages seeking comment were left for attorneys representing Daniel Mullet and Emanuel Schrock.

Lawyer Andy Hyde, who represents Sam Mullet in the state case, said Mullet would contest the federal charges but said he didn't know if he would represent Mullet in federal court.

Holmes County Prosecutor Steve Knowling, who filed state charges against five of the same defendants last month, said he would dismiss those counts and let federal prosecutors take the lead in the case.

In the state case, an Amish bishop and his son said they were held down while men used scissors and a clipper to cut their beards.

The seven men were sleeping when the FBI and local police showed up at their homes before dawn Wednesday, the sheriff said. Three men initially refused to come out of their rooms, but all seven were arrested without incident, he said.

An FBI affidavit said Johnny, Lester and Daniel Mullet and Levi and Eli Miller all confessed in early October to taking part in at least a couple of the attacks.

Johnny Mullet told detectives that it was his idea to cut the hair and beards and that he discussed the idea with his father, who gave him the addresses of two victims, the affidavit said.

Lester Mullet told detectives that after two attacks in late September, the men went home and told Sam Mullet what happened. He said his father laughed and called them nuts, the court document said.

Abdalla, the sheriff, said he didn't know the specifics of the religious disagreements that prompted Mullet to form his own community in 1995.

But the heart of his recent dispute with Amish bishops stemmed from his desire to excommunicate several members, the FBI said. Other bishops concluded the excommunications weren't consistent with Amish teachings and scripture and decided not to recognize the penalties, the FBI said.

One of Mullet's daughters-in-law and a former brother-in-law told investigators that Mullet controls everything that happens within the community outside Bergholz and that he allowed others to beat members of the group who disobeyed him, according to the affidavit filed in federal court Wednesday.

Mullet punished some by making them sleep in a chicken coop for days and was sexually intimate with married women in the community so that he could "cleanse them of the devil," the two said in the affidavit.

Both said they left the community because they did not want to live under Mullet's control.

The FBI affidavit detailed four hair-cutting attacks. The attacks occurred against a couple in Trumbull County on Sept. 6; on Oct. 4 against a man and his son in Holmes County; later on Oct. 4 against a man in Carroll County; and on Nov. 9 against a man allegedly lured to the Mullet complex in Jefferson County.

Authorities said previously that some Amish refused to press charges, following their practice of avoiding involvement of the courts.

Dettelbach alluded to the issue, saying: "It is not the victim's job to decide or to bring charges. I think that's a message I would like people to understand. These charges in this case are the result of our independent determination that crimes occurred."

Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI in northern Ohio, said hate crimes are a priority for the agency.

"The message we'd like to send should be clear that the FBI and all of our law enforcement partners represented here today take civil rights violations very, very seriously," he said.

Ohio has an estimated Amish population of just under 61,000 – second only to Pennsylvania – with most living in rural counties south and east of Cleveland.

They have a modest lifestyle and are deeply religious. Their traditions of traveling by horse and buggy and forgoing most modern conveniences distance themselves from the outside world and symbolize a yielding to a collective order.

___

Seewer reported from Toledo.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Sam Mullet

    FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2011 file photo, Sam Mullet leans on the mailbox at his home in Bergholz, Ohio. The FBI and local sheriff's deputies arrested seven men, including Mullet, reputed leader of a breakaway Amish sect, on federal hate crime charges early Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011. A grand jury indicted 11 individuals for their alleged involvement in a spree of beard cuttings on Dec. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Mugshots

    FILE - This file combo made from photos provided by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department shows, from left, Levi Miller, Johnny Mullet, and Lester Mullet, of Bergholz, Ohio. These three men and two others suspected of forcefully cutting the beards of fellow Amish were arraigned Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, and released on $50,000 bonds posted by the leader of their breakaway group. (AP Photo/Jefferson County Sheriffs Department, File)

  • Lester Mullet

    This photo provided by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department shows Lester Mullet of Bergholz, Ohio. Mullet and three other men believed to be members of a breakaway Amish group were arrested Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 for allegedly going into the home an elderly Amish man and cutting his hair and beard. (AP Photo/Jefferson County Sheriffs Department)

  • Levi Miller

    This photo provided by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department shows Levi Miller of Bergholz, Ohio. Miller and three other men believed to be members of a breakaway Amish group were arrested Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 for allegedly going into the home an elderly Amish man and cutting his hair and beard. (AP Photo/Jefferson County Sheriffs Department)

  • Johnny Mullet

    This photo provided by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department shows Johnny Mullet of Bergholz, Ohio. Mullet and two other men believed to be members of a breakaway Amish group were arrested Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 for allegedly going into the home an elderly Amish man and cutting his hair and beard. (AP Photo/Jefferson County Sheriffs Department)

  • Fred Abdella

    Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdella sits at his desk in Steubenville, Ohio on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. Abdella disputes the claim by Sam Mullet, the leader of a breakaway Amish group, who said that an attack on fellow Amish in which a man's beard was cut off was a religious issue stemming from long-standing resentment of his group's treatment. Sam Mullet, 66, said the goal was to send a message to Amish in Holmes County that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Members of the Amish community leave the U.S. Federal Courthouse Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Cleveland. Sixteen men and women have pleaded not guilty in beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish in Ohio. The latest indictment added new allegations that the suspects tried to hide or destroy evidence, including a disposable camera, shears and a bag of hair from the victims. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

  • Members of the Amish community leave the U.S. Federal Courthouse Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Cleveland. Sixteen men and women have pleaded not guilty in beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish in Ohio. The latest indictment added new allegations that the suspects tried to hide or destroy evidence, including a disposable camera, shears and a bag of hair from the victims. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

  • Arlene Miller checks for her mail in front of her home on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 in Carrolton, Ohio. Miller, 46, who is Amish, tells the Associated Press, her husband had his beard cut by members of a breakaway Amish group. Several men came to their door and attacked her husband, who fled when he called his sons for help. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

  • Jeffery Stone

    Jeffery Stone, mayor of Bergholz, Ohio. sits on the front stoop of his home in Bergholz on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. Stone said that he and the town have not have any problems with the group of breakaway Amish living at the edge of his community. Sam Mullet, the leader of a breakaway Amish group said an attack on fellow Amish in which a man's beard was cut off was a religious issue stemming from long-standing resentment of his group's treatment. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Sam Mullet

    Amish children play baseball during recess outside their school in Bergholz, Ohio home on Monday. Oct. 10, 2011. Sam Mullet , the leader of the breakaway Amish group, said an attack on fellow Amish in which a man's beard was cut off was a religious issue stemming from long-standing resentment of his group's treatment. Mullet, 66, said the goal was to send a message to Amish in Holmes County that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community. ( AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Sam Mullet

    In this photo provided to an Ohio district court late in August, Samuel Mullet allegedly cuts off the beard of his follower, Raymond Hershberger in October last year.

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