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. saywhat

    Beards are symbolic to followers of many faiths Jews, Sikhs, Hindu religious leaders called 'sadhoos', muslims etc. But its a minority that sports them. With Sikhs its mandatory but even there you see many without this growth.
    I do not know whether with the Amish its mandatory?

    I think this particular incident is more an assault than a hate crime. Isn't the accused Amish leader sporting a beard himself?

    September 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • SheilaKA

      Amish men grow beards once they are married. They do not grow mustaches. The women never cut their hair.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tombstone

    Men's beards and women's hair? Or the other way around.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kevin Nivek

    Does anyone else appreciate the irony of a man named Mullet being convicted for hair related crimes??

    September 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Nivek

      Wow, was I late to the party with this comment! Oops.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • RangerDOS


      September 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ug

    And this is really news huh.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. manomundo

    The 47% just weren't getting right with the program.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. amac

    Radical Amish.... what an oxymoron.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jason

    Does anybody else find it funny that this guy's last name is Mullet?

    September 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      And now I see that a bunch of commenters have said something about it.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carla

      I do now. Thanks for the laugh.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lynn

    I'm looking forward to the satirical television coming our way!

    September 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    Hide your kids, hide you wife, hide your wife with the beard.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. vo

    This is about stupid is as stupid does! I'm amazed at these stories.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Carla

    Good grief! What hope is there for civilization when the gentle Amish are going at it with shears?

    September 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. johndanger

    When did Woody Allen grow a beard?

    September 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Pan3

    Those crazy Amish with their long beards and strange ways...

    September 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Progressive Veteran

    Sad, twisted, extremist views like this are causing more and more problems worldwide, including here in the United States which was founded in part on the need for religious freedom. What we are increasingly faced with is a religious-right which seeks to enforce their belief system upon us all, calling for traditional this, that or another thing. While I respect the rights of those who choose to support their lives with faith of one form or another, it is your faith and should be kept to you and your fellow believers. Leave the rest of us out and keep it out of politics! ProgressiveVeteran.,

    September 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. john don

    This is PURE INTRUSION OF THE feds, they just want any excuse to get their noses in to it, YOU HAVE A HATE CRIME example on those older senior citizens being constantly harrazed by other groups of people and nobody CARES,,,,

    September 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • nadinesh

      Did you not read the story? Several of the people assaulted reported and crime to police.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duke

      Actually this is a perfect example of why there are hate crime laws. The law worked.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • amazed

      What senseless babble.

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