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. Tony

    Prison life will be an UPGRADE–they'll have TELEVISION, ELECTRICITY, and free meals. Yet, did you know that Amish have a VERY HIGH RATE of FEMALE Spousal abuse? Its one of their "dirty little secrets." Sentence them to HARD LABOR.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Portland tony

    Lock em up...Tax payers love to lockup dangerous felons....18 years times 15 defendants times $60K a year...Well worth it. And you wonder where your taxes go? Sure would by a few school lunches or something worthwhile?

    September 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bozo

    This is why in America we incarcerate a higher percentage of our population than any other country in the history of the world. We just find ways to throw people in prison.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • angela birch

      Yes we put people who assault other people in prison, just like people from other countries do. These people repeatedly broke into other people's hoimes and assaulted them.
      Let the potheads out but keep people in prisone that attack other people.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. shawbrooke

    That is likely a first in a 500 year old tradition of non violence and tolerance. Mostly people who engage in violence are exiled and those exiled respect it. Clearly this Mullet group did not. In Amish life, people who disagree form their own groups, sometimes in a new place. If other Amish tried to stop the attacks, they must have been seriously upset but probably too few in number to overcome the assailants.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stan the Man

    Beard on Beard violence is not to be taken lightly.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Naaaa, beard on beard crime is very short!

      September 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Penguin

    17 1/2 years would be a long time for cutting hair and beards. They should be punished, but any jail time will be paid for on taxpayers dime. As a taxpayer (yes I'm in the 53%), I object to paying for more than minimum incarceration. Besides the victims can seek monetary relief in civil court. I know the victims would not resort to that procedure because of there religious beliefs, but that is their hangup

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

      Religious freedom is great, but when it degenerates into physical assault, then something needs to be done to put a stop to it and send out a message. Otherwise it's not too big a step between what we see here and some of the activities that are happening in other parts of the world in the name religion (and that many are scared witless might start emerging in the US). If it crosses the line into assault then hammer them hard. If others see that these actions might cost them 17 years of freedom, then that might make them reconsider taking similar actions. (All that said, I agree with those who have pointed out that this was out of character for the Amish.)

      September 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • MichCats

      “(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 ...

      The attackers may have meant to give their victims a haircut or a shave, but that is only assault-free if the recipient sits perfectly still. They resisted as you, too, would if somebody came at you with clippers. They may not have robbed their victims, but Mullett and his hairy gang were vicious and the attack was brutal. Mullett and his cohort are convicted criminals deserving of jail sentences.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. 1UniqueUserName

    Hitchin' up the buggy, churnin' lots of butter, razed a barn on Monday, soon I'll raze a nutter.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bill constantine

    Spoulse abuse. I can see this also in the Orthodox Jews were they keep to their selfs. I feel sorry for the females in this world. It is the same in the Mormon religion. Do you see a differenc of the guy and a mormon????

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

      I doubt any religion has a lock on spouse abuse. As to whether there is a difference between Amish life and Mormon life, the answer is yes. You may be comparing the criminal FLDS leader Warren Jeffs to the criminal Amish leader Samuel Mullett, Sr. Mainstream believers of both faiths might question how accurate these men are in their interpretations of their religions.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jennifer

    Could there possibly be more typos in this article?

    September 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. glonq

    Battery-powered clippers? Camera? Doesn't sound very Amish to me...

    September 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DB

    Punishment should include having their beards off or making them get trimmed into a chin pony tail for the other prisoners to pull them around with, or hold them while .....well you know.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DB

    Sounds less gay to me.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Miss Macy

    Rather than sending these Amish nutjobs to prison, why not make them sit in a locked room 18 hours a day watching reruns of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and "Real Housewives of New Jersey." They'll blow their own brains out and save the state of Ohio a fortune.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    Sam Mullet went around forcing bad hair do's on people, LOL, CNN where do you dig this horsecrap up?!

    September 20, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Enoch100

      Darn you John. This serious stuff!

      September 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • jungleboo

      You certainly have sense of human dignity. Republican, I assume?

      September 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ObjectiveGuy

    The REAL crime would have been if Mr. Mullet and his sons had given actual mullet haircuts to the Amish! You know, business in front, party in back...

    September 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
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