Prosecutors seeks to keep leader of Amish beard-cutting sect jailed

ReligionNewsBlog.com — The Justice Department has asked a federal appellate court to keep Amish sect leader Sam Mullet behind bars while he is awaiting trial on federal hate crime charges.

Authorities say Mullet, who heads a renegade Amish sect sometimes referred to as the Bergholz Clan, arranged a series of beard-cutting attacks on other Amish in Ohio.

Mullet and 11 members of his group also face charges of conspiracy, assault and tampering with evidence in the case.

The attacks — in which the beards and hair of men and hair of women were cut — are believed to be part of a a feud over church discipline. Cutting off someone’s hair is considered deeply offensive in Amish culture.

According to the hate crimes indictment and an earlier FBI search-warrant affidavit, Mullet and his followers were motivated by revenge, says The Plain Dealer. The documents say Mullet was angry that other Amish bishops refused to accept his excommunication of members who had chosen to leave Mullet’s group.

BERGHOLZ CLAN
‘Bergholz Clan’ is not the group’s formal name, but rather a reference to its location: Bergholz, Jefferson County, Ohio.

A former member of the group says Sam Mullet moved with some 120 fellow Amish to Bergholz some 15 years ago.

The man has compared the sect to the Peoples Temple cult, whose leader Jim Jones in 1978 led his followers into mass murder/suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.

“I’m not surprised if I have to call the sheriff some day and say there ar lot of dead people lying around here. That would not be a surprise to me nor would it be a surprise to the sheriff of that county,” the former member told a local TV station.

According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, says he has talked to many former Bergholz members who say Sam Mullet exercises complete control there, including sleeping with men’s wives to “counsel” them in sexual matters.

Public Defender Ed Bryan is appealing Mullet’s detention. He claims that while the Justice Department portrays Mr. Mullet as a “mysterious cult leader with supernatural powers” it can not back up its assertions that he is dangerous or won’t show up for future court proceedings.

In his appeal Bryan suggests the Sheriff and the FBI are over-reaching in trying to convince the judge that Mullet is a “violent doomsday cultist.”

Federal prosecutors say Mullet needs to remain locked up due to his influence in the his community, as well as the potential for violence if U.S. marshals are forced to go to Bergholz to re-arrest him should he violate the terms of any release order.

BEARDS
Under Amish tradition, men no longer cut their beard after they’re married.

The beard is a symbol of a man’s identity among the Amish and women in the community do not cut their hair for biblical reasons.

Having their hair cut off is considered deeply offensive by the Amish.

Read the indictment

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