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Break-away Amish group charged with hate crime for hair cutting assaults

You can’t make this stuff up. In addition, several of those charged have the surname of Mullet. That said, the acts described here are definitely a hate crime.

A federal grand jury in Ohio returned a seven-count indictment on Tuesday that charges 10 men and two women with federal crimes related to what the feds say were religiously motivated attacks of rival Amish factions.

Several members of the Mullet breakaway clan — Samuel Mullet Sr., Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Schrock and Lester S. Mullet — were arrested by the FBI in late November. Tuesday’s grand jury indictment includes charges against Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller and Linda Shrock.

What did they do? From the DOJ press release:

The indictment addresses five separate assaults that occurred between September through November 2011.   In each assault, defendants forcibly removed beard and head hair from the victims with whom they had ongoing religious disputes.   As set forth in the indictment, the manner in which Amish men wear their beards and Amish women wear their hair are symbols of their faith.

…According to the indictment, Samuel Mullet Sr. is the Bishop of the Amish community in Bergholz, Ohio, while the remaining defendants are all members of that community.   Mullet Sr. exerted control over the Bergholz community by taking the wives of other men into his home, and by overseeing various means of disciplining community members, including corporal punishment.   As a result of religious disputes with other members of the Ohio Amish community, the defendants planned and carried out a series of assaults on their perceived religious enemies.   The assaults involved the use of hired drivers, either by the defendants or the alleged victims, because practitioners of the Amish religion do not operate motor vehicles.  The assaults all entailed using scissors and battery-powered clippers to forcibly cut or shave the beard hair of the male victims and the head hair of the female victims.   During each assault, the defendants restrained and held down the victims.   During some of the assaults, the defendants injured individuals who attempted to intervene to protect or rescue the victims.   Following the attacks, some of the defendants participated in discussions about concealing photographs and other evidence of the assaults.

The maximum potential penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison.   The maximum penalty for the hate crime charges is life in prison.   The maximum penalty for the obstruction charge is 20 years in prison.

It’s not common to see such acts make the news; and the Amish community to many Americans, is a closed society that is not well understood. The level of vitriol and violence accompanying the assaults is designed to shame and humiliate. This prosecution by the DOJ is pulling back the curtain to reveal a patriarchal religious culture with schisms that erupt into unusual, but still criminal activity.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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