CLEVELAND -- The alleged ringleader in beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio cannot rely on taxpayers to pay his legal bills, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster ruled that Samuel Mullet Sr., 66, who has a nearly 800-acre farm near Steubenville with oil and gas leases, can afford to pay his defense attorney.
Mullet has been represented by a public defender, Edward Bryan, but now must pay the going court rate of $125 hourly if he wants to keep him, the judge ruled.
Mullet and 11 followers are charged in five beard- and hair-cutting attacks on other Amish last year. They have pleaded not guilty.
Other defendants received court-appointed attorneys.
A feud over church discipline allegedly led to attacks in which the beards and hair of men and hair of women were cut, an act considered deeply offensive in Amish culture. The Amish believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.
The judge didn't specify how much Mullet is worth or the value of the oil and gas leases. Mullet's financial disclosure affidavits have been sealed by the court.
In his ruling, the judge said the initial affidavit showed Mullet's debts exceed his assets.
Jefferson County property records online show Mullet and his wife, Martha, own eight parcels of agricultural land totaling 783 acres with a value of more than $580,000.
Bryan told the judge in a Jan. 9 letter that Mullet hadn't received any oil or gas lease payments but could earn "a significant amount" from them. Polster said an updated affidavit filed last week showed Mullet had received "significant proceeds from the mineral-rights lease," but the judge didn't specify an amount.
On an earlier hearing on Mullet's ability to pay for his attorney, the defense said Mullet's farm was mortgaged.
Mullet has indicated he wants to keep Bryan as his attorney for continuity and Bryan thinks that's in Mullet's best interest, the judge said.
"Going forward, Mullet must pay on a monthly basis for the legal representation," the judge said.
The government had objected to appointing a public defender for Mullet because of the pending oil and gas leases.
Bryan said in an email that he could not disclose information about Mullet's financial situation or estimate what his defense might cost.
In addition to Mullet, those charged include four of his children, a son-in-law, three nephews, the spouses of a niece and nephew and a member of the Mullet community in Bergholz near Steubenville. In addition to work on the farm, some members of the extended family have held construction jobs elsewhere.