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. JC

    The only thing more ridiculous than forcibly cutting off people's beards would have to be the government's efforts to define it as a hate crime. How is is not simple assault and battery? The laws we have are enough, thank you very much; we don't need to go making up new ones just to please Nancy Pelosi and a few extremist Democrats. What else are they going to do? Make them consult their parole officers before using electric shavers in the future? So in other words, it is somehow more socially acceptable to shave a bunch of Amish simply to cause trouble, as long as religion is never brought up? I have nothing but respect for the Amish and their religion, so I would probably only get 6 months and a fine. Does that make any kind of sense whatsoever? It is exactly this kind of crap that makes it so hard to trust government. What if we forcibly shaved congress for being a bunch of hypocritical philistines?

    September 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bozzo

      What has this got to do with Nancy Pelosi? You should focus on redirecting out-of-whack Romney than vent your frustration on irrelevant matters.

      September 21, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. JC

    The Amish are an interesting bunch. Didn't they supply the early Continental Army with "grain," knowing perfectly well that the grain specified was gunpowder? Pretty fine line there between turning the other cheek and letting someone else fight your battles.

    I'd say these shavings had a lot more to do with personal payback than religious differences.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rick

    As long as none of the hair gets into my Shoo Fly pie, I'm happy.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. x

    He's a natural for the position of prison barber.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Demigod Vadik, CA

    You have to admit, to non-Amish people, this is just funny...

    September 20, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leslie B.

      It's not "just funny" to non-Amish people. These people were attacked and assaulted besides having beards or hari cut; did you not read it, or are you too simple-minded to attempt to understand another person's way of life and what this meant?

      My question is, will these men who have been convicted be required to shave in jail? I certainly hope so.

      September 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      This is not funny at all, and I am not Amish. I live in Ohio. It isn't just about religious hair cuts, either, but about attacking and violating people who can't just run to their car and drive away. Sure, it is their choice to live "off the grid," but they should not be attacked for it.

      September 20, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. me

    Cutting a beard is an Amish hate crime.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      If you read the article, you would notice it said the victims were beaten and their skin cut too so that they were bleeding and bruised. Cutting and beating people is assault in any community, including yours.

      September 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Samuel Mullet sr


    September 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fritz

    This has got to be among the weirdest things I've ever heard. Beard cutting hate crime. Only in America.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sac

    Christian, Hindu or Muslim , we have a small faction of Taliban style people everywhere.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ARROW1

    The DOJ on drugs. Complete waist of tax payer dollars.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Wasting tax dollars to prosecute for beating and cutting people, not just hair but skin too? They throw people in jail for stealing cars, and that is not as serious as assault.

      September 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tHE tRUTH

    it's not just the's the beating that gets you 17 years. it's the sheer hate for someone else that compels people to do some of the most twisted stuff imaginable. stop it now or it will fester into a nation of suicide bombers and militia. I'm all for capitol punishment for the ones that deserve it. I'm personally tired of the bullying and scare tactics of some of these idiots. sure Amish people are like cavemen stuck in the present but it doesn't give you the right to hurt anyone..

    September 20, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sky

    Violence is violence and is NEVER funny.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BOMBO ©

    Oh the irony of someone with the name Mullet being featured in a story about forcible haircuts.

    Also, cut off that dude's beard in the picture, and he looks exactly like a guy out of Toronto who used to come and fix mass spectrometers for us.

    September 20, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NanH

    So sad, the Amish have always reported to be such peaceful people. Has violence in their community been going on for a long time without anyone knowing or has current violent society influenced them?

    September 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Helen Hevener

    If you read it you will see Mr Mullet and his cohorts were not Amish anymore- a group broke off from the Amish and they were trying to get back at the people who they felt were to blame for them being asked to leave the church!!! If you know Amish two things are very important to them- a woman's hair according to the Bible is a woman's glory- thats why Amish women do not cut their hair!!! Also I am not sure from where but the way there wear their hair and men have a beard is a very long in-acted Amish tradition- every Amish man that is married has a beard!!! They feel naked and rebuked by God when they hair and beard is cut. And that is the exact way Mr Samuel Mullet was wanting them to feel. What he and the others did to the Amish- was to directly cause them pain and cause them embarrassement- which was what the Mullets had fully intended to do. I do think it should be handled as a hate crime- Mr Mullet hated the people who did not fit into his mold- to the point where he wanted to hurt and embarrass them- if this isnt a case of hate crime I dont know what is!! Bad blood had been running awhile between these to groups- Amish and the group of branched off Amish!!! I get the feeling that Mr Mullet wanted to feel like he ws in control like he had the last say about anything- and he would go to any length to prove that. I think about 10 years in jail is exactly what everyone of those Mullet hating people should do about 10 years in jail. They are not above the law- they knew better than to do what they did. But since the Amish dont usually call the police in on anything my guess is that Mr Mullet never thought he would be caught!!! Just hope you and your sons learn a bit while you are in jail Mr Mullet!!!

    September 20, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      It is hatred, but also assault, beating, cutting the skin to cause bleeding. The Amish pay taxes in this country, and also grow and sell food; they should be able to call the police when there is a problem and also have a crime prosecuted, just like the rest of us.

      September 20, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
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