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. Aaron

    Hate crimes should also include atheists. We need federal protection from Christians we live in fear

    September 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mickey1313

      Im an athiest, and I agree.most of the fights I've been in have been against groups of spineless hate mongering christians. Guess what I've never lost. Says something about the weakness of there conviction.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abigail

      As a Christian, I sincerely apologize for any fear or discrimination brought on by your belief as an atheist. Although I don't agree with your view, I respect that fact that you have the right to it and I pray that other Christians may realize this as well. God bless and good day 🙂

      September 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Natalie

      I am an agnostic And I have been threatened by "christians" that have violated my personal space by grabbing my hand or shoulder. You can't reach out and touch people in the name of god!! One jerk actually laid his hand on my forehead. My husband knocked him down.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jakob Ammon

    The government witch hunt has now burned the witches and joined a long, ugly legacy of tyrannical abuse of power. This is the beginning of the end for the Amish, the most authentic Christian community in the world.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      Please, do not "romanticize" the Amish. I live in Amish country and have worked extensively with the community. Just because they are, as a rule, very conservative (but believe me, there are many exceptions within local groups), does not make them any more "authentic Christian" than anybody else. They are human beings,with varying interpretations of "christian", just like the rest of us. They enjoy special protections because of their religious status; that does NOT make them exempt from criminal prosecutions when they have transgressed federal laws.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • angeson

      Abuse. Mullet was the abuser. He is no different than the Taliban are. Just another terrorist. The should send them to Gitmo.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Col B

      A hate crime is a hate crime and that is what they were judged against. We read about racism and gay bashing. all the totime.....this is no different.t that does not exempt them from the law.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • fandancy

      Riiinnnnnnnnggggg. Time to wake up.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Becca

    I believe this is a good job of the courts to find them guilty. They are not so above anyone else on this earth. It is a hate crime and they are big bullies. They should sit in jail for life as far as I am concerned. But wait til they are put in jail they will hate to see what else they get as I do not think the others in that jail will be so kind to them. I do hope they make them cut off their beards and shave theri heads too. This seems just like a side show but it is not right of anyone who is involved in a hate crime to get away with it.I hope the jail has a out house for them to use too.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cliff

    What foolishness this is. This is nothing more than liberal PC garbage gone amuk. All over cutting off some beards.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • beard

      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.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralphie

      Which part of "bruised and beaten" did you miss? You really think it's ok for someone to burst into your home and do this?

      September 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. seyedibar

    17.5 years for cutting hair? if you didn't tell me it was Ohio, i'd presume we were talking about Saudi Arabia or Syria. This is why religion should be permanently separated from our government.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mickey1313

      Agreed

      September 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • angeson

      If butchering hair is criminal, I want to turn in Conley's barber shop in Warsaw Indiana.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • marconicolini

      Agreed! I agree that there should be some kind of punishment, but 17 years?? Common, maybe a few months plus lots of community service should be able to show them that what they did was wrong. 17 years is ridiculous, you could kill someone and still get less than that. Religion should not be part of the justice system, what they did was aggression, same as if I walk outside my house and punch my neighbor in the face, nothing else.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      If anyone with a group of friends, forcibly restrains me and cuts my hair, you won't need law enforcement until it's time to pick up the bodies. You seem to have less self-respect. I suppose you approve of anarchic violence by religious fanatics, eh?

      September 20, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC

      These people deserve to be thrown in a jail with similar animals. They are worse than gang bangers since they would probably progress to a violent cult.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • msuwebmanager

      "A few months and community service?" And then what? Sam's out, back on the compound and plotting revenge. The mere fact that this guy still thinks he was in the right should tell you as much. He needs a loooong time to think about what he did.

      September 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ramona,CA-Wassup

      @sqeptiq – What are you talking about?? Who is talking about anarchy, they commited a violent act, and should be punished for that. That's it! None of this religious stupid crap. Prisons are already full, and you stupid is paying for each one of them, so you want this old beard cutting man on your bill too, for 17 years? Just crazy talk...

      @msuwebmanager – As far as I know he is a first time offendent, and everybody deserves a second chance (believe me we all make mistakes, that's real, no religion crap), 17 years would be a death sentence for him, on my humble opinion it does not justify all this time.

      September 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. frootyme

    Religion? Then it is a problem!. Stop it!!

    September 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. this is stupid

    this is stupid, everything that is happening now in the word, unemployment, americans being attacked overseas, deficiet, and what is supposed to be a news org. leads with a story about the amish in amsterdam, oh did our president do anything today

    September 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Amish in Amsterdam?

      September 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • msuwebmanager

      "Amsterdam?" Where did you get Amsterdam? But more importantly, you think because there are bigger problems in the world that anything less than world peace and prosperity shouldn't be pursued? If a bunch of guys came in your house, held you down and sheered you like a sheep, you wouldn't call the cops?

      September 20, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JoeBlow

    Huh .. Amish watching Fox News ..

    September 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. frootyme

    Hmmmm

    September 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. trex

    ................Hummmmm, sounds very TEA party to me.....................

    September 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. StuporDave

    Begging the question – Is there such a thing as a peace-loving religion? Then what purpose does it serve? I neither want nor need a strict father figure looking over my shoulder. Accepting that notion indicates a willingness to believe in ONE WAY for everyone. NONSENSE!!!!

    September 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. pigmore

    He looks like he trims his beard and hair with a squirrel.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. imastarchick

    Im surprised at most of you downgrading the attacks. You should listen to what the sheriff of Holmes County had to say about the Mullet cult. The victims were attempting to leave Mr. Mullet Sr's extreme cult version of Amish religion. Mullet is the Christian version of the Taliban. When the moderate Amish left his cult... he sent his family after them and continued to threaten until the sheriff stepped in. He's a cult leader and dangerous. He and his boys deserve 17 years in jail.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Gary

    So are these folks still in custody? Just a minor detail that you think would be covered in the story.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nissley Dairy

    What next !!! Shooting in a mosque !! Cutting beards and hate crimes !! WOW !! What can I do to make this world a better place to live in ? Maybe I can be more kind and loving to those around me.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
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