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. Anna

    I live in North Eastern Ohio and have encountered many different levels of Amish community. I have been following this case closely in hopes Mullet and all others involved would pay for these crimes. I have also read on other "cult" like alligations brought against Mullet. I am very disgusted that someone would do this to younger Amish couples. Whatever anyone's opinion, it doesn't matter a hate crime is a hate crime; beards and how they wear their hair is part if their faith! Same as if someone derobed a Muslim woman!!! It's disrespectful and he should be made an example of!!! For other Amish to feel so helpless they actually called police says more then just beard cutting, he shook their communities to the point where they locked their front doors!!! ( which is unheard of )

    September 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. haziman

    Whaaaat???

    September 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. anna

    This man really looks bad, looks like he is ready for his box.

    September 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jasin

    Is it a crime to hate beards??

    I hate pony tails on men...lol

    September 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • kyphi

      His name is Mullet? I can't be the only one to find humor in this article

      September 21, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. woodie

    This is assault. I do not get the hate crime part of this. If you assault somebody, I would assume you have a healthy disrespect for them in the process. The hate crime laws make no sense to me whatsoever.

    September 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Yes, hate crime laws seem to punish thought. I should be free to hate others. That is something that happens in the privacy of my mind. Of course, acting on my hate and assaulting others is unacceptable.

      September 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whatson?

      @ Woodie.. I agree totally .. if you kill someone, you must hate them that seems to be a given.

      September 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dustin Goldsen

      RE: if you kill someone you must hate them. Not necessarily. That's why mercy killings are considered manslaughter. Also someone killed during the commission of a misdemeanor would be manslaughter. Neither involves hate.

      The idea of hate laws goes back a long way. Under common law (which is the basis for law in the US and 49 of our states) murder is a homicide committed with malice aforethought. In other words, its a hate crime. Has been for centuries.

      By the way, in case you are wondering about the 49, Louisiana uses French civil law, not British common law.

      September 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, B.A., J.D., S.P.J.

      Indeed, no sense at all until some Klan-Klown burns a cross on your lawn. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, B.A., J.D., S.P.J.

      September 23, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • jesse

      17 yrs - life? For a bad haircut? Lol

      September 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      The hate crime is that he has acted on the thought. You can hate all you want but once you act on it you are in deep doodoo.

      September 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Whatson?

    Last I heard; a judge ordered the muslim guy who murdered 27 soldiers, to be forcibly shaved....???? Huh??

    September 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • code7c

      Because he's an officer in the US Army and regulations require him to be clean shaven. He's a terrorist, murderer second.

      September 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jesse

      Mislim "first" Officer in the U.S. Army "Second"and terrorist "Third"

      September 23, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • R2

      No Jesse. When you see his old Army photos, he is, in fact, cleanshaven. That is the "deal" he agreed to in order to join the Army, draw a military paycheck, etc. He is STILL in the Army and he is STILL subject to Army regulations (and he is STILL eating, drinking, etc. on the public's dime). If his commanding officers tell him to shave, he needs to shave. It doesmn't matter if he ranks his religion above his job. He agreed to comply with Army rules when he joined. End of story.

      September 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Whatson?

    So if you are a muslim murderer from Fort Hood... it doesn't count.

    September 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ronvan

    So shave his head and beard and then see how he feels!

    September 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. trex

    ................Stupid people find ways to gain power, even with religion and cults. These stupid people listened and acted upon ONE STUPID POWER CRAZED IDIOT,...........and they will spend a decade or more in jail with REAL CRIMINALS.............well, can you see the warden trying to get tough with these guys. What's he gonna do, make them sleep in a barn?.............Milk cows before sun up?....................dig outhouses?...............Face it, jail is an IMPROVEMENT ..........................................until shower time with the sisters..........

    September 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James Bordonaro

    Government prosecutors run amok! These convictions stretch the definition of a hate crime beyond existing boundaries and demonstrate why it is unwise to have such laws. Further, did the jury find that the shears were dangerous weapons. That's also a stretch as almost any item can be used in non-traditional manners to cause harm.

    September 22, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      II agree the context of the sentencing seems stretched as it should be classified as assault. But they could have, and probably did, hurt somebody. It is hard to envision that ordeal going down peaceably as the haircut was obviously against their will.

      September 24, 2012 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. Absolut Lee

    The true haters are the one's alway's playing the race card or hollering "hom ophobe!" at those who choose to protect their children from risky lifestyle groups. (promiscuous people, needle sharers, wannabe gang bangers, sodomites, etc) AIDS is worth protecting from.

    September 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Martin Chiaravalloti

    Another example of religious extremism right here in the USA. Sounds a lot like what Romney and his bully buddies did to the kid in high school, that he claims he doesn't remember. Just to be clear, if you held someone down and cut their hair you'd remember it no matter how long ago it was! I'm glad there was justice in this case, I guess I'll have to wait for November 7th, for Mitt to get his!

    September 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Northstar77

      Right on target.

      September 23, 2012 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • jesse

      That was just some hippie guy..Not a muslim or Amish

      September 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard A.M.

      Yes it is a hate crime. ANY attack on someone JUST because of who they are or what they aren't is obscene. I like this because it SOLIDIFIES the character of romney and the mentality he has imbued this Nation with by openly attacking pretty much EVERYONE not rich, white and religious. Hate is easy enough to drown in without adding to the pool, tolerance IS THE KEY TO PEACE and UNIFICATION of our world, NOT the hateful, exclusionary tactics set upon us by the extreme religious sect. Hate is hate; NO FORM OF HATE can be construed as Love by anyone but the twisted and distorted minds of extremists (YES I'm pointing fingers at the christians and muslims of this world) =P

      September 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bill Maher

    Jesus never said a follicle for a follicle.

    September 22, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ryan

    Obviously he needs to go to a prison that requires inmates to be clean-shaven.

    September 22, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ginger315

    Perahps prison officials will make them have their beards cut off before entering prison–what a fitting punishment.

    September 23, 2012 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
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