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Crime and Courts


Amish leader Mullet gets 15 years in prison for hate crimes
Mullet Sr. and his followers are sentenced for religiously motivated hair cuttings
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


Reporter
Kevin Niedermier
 
U.S. Attorney Steve Dettlebach (at podium) talks about today's sentencing of Sam Mullet Sr. and his followers for hate crimes. Beside him are local prosecutors and law enforcement officials involved in the case.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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In The Region:
Amish bishop Sam Mullet Sr. has avoided a life sentence for his role in a series of beard and hair cutting attacks. But today in Cleveland, a federal judge sentenced the 67-year-old to 15-years in prison for orchestrating the attacks on other Amish.

Mullet could have been sentenced to life because the attacks were prosecuted as religious hate crimes. Fifteen followers, including Mullets sons and six women, also received prison sentences ranging from one-to-seven years for their roles in the attacks.
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In Amish culture, women’s hair and men’s breads hold strong religious significance.  And under Sam Mullet Sr.’s orders, his followers cut the hair of Amish they believed were not strict enough. Mullet and his followers say the attacks were merely family quarrels, and that the world outside the Amish community doesn't understand.

But U.S. District Judge Dan Polster says the attacks, carried out with scissors and electric shavers,were premeditated hate crimes that led to injuries, disfigurements and terror among the victims and Amish nationwide. Though Mullet never participated in an actual attack, Polster says he used the power he had over his followers to encourage them to carry out the hair cuttings, and he never did anything to stop them.

Holmes County Prosecutor Steve Knowling started the investigation into the attacks more than a year-and-a-half ago. He says the Amish community will sleep better knowing Mullet and his followers will spend years in prison.

“They’ll be free to practice their religion and live their lives without fear of Sam Mullet reaching out to them again through his henchmen and committing more acts of home invasion and assault. I’ve regarded this case that started in our county as religious terrorism, and I’m extremely gratified with the results.”  

Mullet not remorseful, followers vow to serve his time
Knowling says the Amish usually resolve differences within the community. The fact that they accepted help from law enforcement and the courts shows how frightened  they were of Mullet and his sect in Bergholtz, which is a community of fewer than 700 in Jefferson County.

Before being sentenced, the 67-year old Mullet told the judge that he doesn’t have long to live, and that “if somebody needs to be blamed for this, and I’m a cult leader, I’m willing to take the blame for everybody.”  He added that he didn’t want to say much else because his words always get twisted.

Mullet’s defense attorney, Ed Bryan, asked for mercy, saying 1 1/2 to 2 years in prison was more appropriate than life.

Each defendant addressed the judge before the sentencing. One man cried, and said he would never do something like this again, some expressed shock that cutting hair could get someone in this much trouble. Most apologized, and some of the men whose wives were also being sentenced, offered to serve the women's time as well. Some defendants even offered to serve part of Sam Mullet’s prison time.

Still a threat
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, Steve Dettlebach, says that shows Mullet remains a danger to the Amish community and needs to be locked away.

“Facing accountability for their own acts after being led into this by Sam Mullet, that defendant after defendant would offer, yet again, to sacrifice their lives for him is just proof that he’s a cult leader. It’s what we’ve said all along. And Mullet is a thug, a bully, and he belongs in federal prison.”

Dettlebach says Mullet and his followers violated the First Amendment which ensures religious freedom. And before issuing the sentences, Judge Polster said that makes the case even more reprehensible because the Amish, like Mullet, benefit from the religious freedom that exempts them from serving in the military or on jury duty, and from going to school beyond the eighth grade.                                                
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