Amish leader, 15 followers convicted of hate crimes in beard attacks
Samuel Mullet Sr. is one of 16 Amish charged with federal hate crimes in last year's beard-cutting attacks.
September 20th, 2012
03:27 PM ET

Amish leader, 15 followers convicted of hate crimes in beard attacks

Sixteen members of a breakaway Amish community in rural eastern Ohio, including its leader, were convicted of federal hate crimes Thursday for the forcible cutting of Amish men's beards and Amish women's hair.

Sam Mullet Sr. and the 15 followers were found guilty of conspiracy to violate federal hate-crime law in connection with what authorities said were the religiously motivated attacks on several fellow Amish people last year.

The verdicts were read in U.S. District Court in Cleveland following several days of jury deliberation and a trial that began in late August, a U.S. attorney's office said.

Prosecutors said the 15 followers, at Mullet's instruction, shaved the beards and cut the hair of Amish people who had left his group over various religious disagreements. Five attacks happened in four Ohio counties between September and November 2011, authorities said.

To the Amish, a beard is a significant symbol of faith and manhood, and the way Amish women wear their hair also is a symbol of faith, authorities said.

The assaults violated the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which "prohibits any person from willfully causing bodily injury to any person, or attempting to do so by use of a dangerous weapon, because of the actual or perceived religion of that person," according to the office of the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

November 1, 2011: CNN goes inside Mullet's compound

August 27, 2012: Hate crimes trial against Amish begins

While the charges can carry a sentence of up to life in prison, the judge can choose any length, and the federal guidelines in this case is probably about 17.5 years, said Mike Tobin, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.

Mullet, a bishop of a group living on a compound outside Bergholz in eastern Ohio, wanted to "seek revenge and punish the departing families," according to an FBI affidavit filed before the trial. The attackers, using scissors and battery-powered clippers, injured their victims as well as others who tried to stop the attacks, prosecutors said.

“(The attackers) sheared them almost like animals, leaving them bloodied, bruised and beaten," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach told reporters Thursday. "These were no mere haircuts. These were violent attacks ... (leaving victims) so shaken and scared that they felt compelled to call on local law enforcement.”

Usually, the Amish resolve disputes without involving law enforcement, but some Amish members reported the beard-cutting incidents to police last fall.

Mullet’s group, which had broken away from a larger Amish community, is made up primarily of his relatives living on and around an 800-acre compound in a remote valley outside Bergholz.

The jury also convicted various groupings of defendants with separate assaults, and Mullet and Lester Mullet with concealing or attempting to conceal items of evidence, including a camera and pictures of the attacks, the U.S. attorney's office said.

The 16 defendants were:  Samuel Mullet Sr., 66; Johnny S. Mullet, 39; Daniel S. Mullet, 38; Levi F. Miller, 54; Eli M. Miller, 32; Emanuel Shrock; Lester Miller, 37; Raymond Miller, 27; Freeman Burkholder, 31; Anna Miller; Linda Shrock; Lester Mullet; Elizabeth A. Miller; Emma J. Miller; Kathryn Miller; and Lovina Miller, 32.

All live in Bergholz, except for Raymond Miller, Burkholder, Elizabeth Miller and Kathryn Miller, who are of Irondale, Ohio; and Lester Mullet, who is of Hammondsville, Ohio.

- CNN's Jason Hanna, Mallory Simon,Tricia Escobedo, Chuck Johnston, Alan Duke and Chris Welch contributed to this report.

soundoff (481 Responses)
  1. Wes

    It would be ironic justice if the sentencing included giving them all a shave and a haircut. No, it was not a hate crime, it was just assault and battery like someone just said. Now let's work on the Muslim penchant for their own assault and battery, especially against women, disguised as religious sharia law. Something is definitely wrong. Where's the love???? ! ! ! ! !

    September 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      Is there a reason why you had to take a jab at the Muslims? Was that necessary?

      September 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Xavier

    Monty Python skit in-waiting?

    September 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. snowboarder

    religion, like all else, is best used in moderation.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hereafter2

    I think he looks a bit like Woody Allen + a beard.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. john

    What can you expect from a crazy religious net named after a fish! Seriously, this reminds me of the things that Mormons did when fist settling Utah, many years ago. In this case it may sound funny that cutting hair and beards is considered a hate crime BUT (as mentioned) these were AGGRIVATED ASSAULTS where the victims were not only sheard but VIOLENTED ATTACKED and INJURED! Send the perps to prison for at least as long as it would take the victims to grow back their hair/beards and regain their respect. I'm guessing that would be at least 17 1/2 years. Fortunately U.S. religious violence pales compared to what is happening in the muslim world!

    September 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dharler

    18 years for giving a haircut ??????? Good Grief....................

    September 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      I agree 100%. Its absurd. A couple weeks in the county jail seems enough.

      September 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      It is not just a haircut. They beat someone for wanting to leave their church. It is retaliation. To an Amish male the beard is a symbol of their devotion to god. Think of it as someone burning your bible. In the end they had no right to beat them for leaving their community and they had no right to shave off their body hair. Especially when their body hair is a part of their religious beliefs.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AgrippaMT

    People like this are all screwballs. Let's hope he gets a nice long sentence.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tom

    Calling this a "hate crime" seems excessive to me. Yes someone should be punished by a FELONY for cutting someone's hair? Come on now. That is extreme. Seems like EVERYTHING is a felony now.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • cobracat

      Not everything...but this is - and should be. It's not all about race and gender.

      September 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. hatebreedshate

    They going to sentence them to a daily dose of technology, culture and innovation?

    September 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Howie Subnick

    Let them all do prison time and let them feel what it is like to be on the other end. I recommend everyone in prison sleep with their backs to the wall and with one eye open. They say "BuBu" may be a nice guy, but I woudn't put him to the test.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. vatoloke

    Whoa!!! I thought that was one of the guys from ZZ Topp! Whew!!!

    September 20, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Marco Perches

    Weird Al's Amish Paradise has a new icon

    September 20, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Starship

    I agree this is more of an assault and battery crime I don't think they really hated them they were jus persecuting them out of a prideful stance. 10 years out to do it.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. scranton

    Al Qaeda on Xanax.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. paw2100

    Another example of Obama's war on religion.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spaceman

      prove it

      September 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      So you're in favor of religious leaders physically attacking followers? The bus for Iran leaves at 9.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • west coaster

      where do I enlist?

      September 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • RLR

      The world would be a lot better off without religion, the root of all evil.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skeptacular

      Yep, that's certainly how desperate and quixotic republican reactionaries would attempt to portray it, no matter how laughable such a judgment is on the face of it to the rest of CNN's readers.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Are you kidding? You can't blaming this on Obama. I am a Republican and will never vote for a Democrat because of their tax and spend policies. But this? Please stop the hate. We are better than that.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
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