Four members of a breakaway Amish group charged with hate crimes will be arraigned in federal court in Youngstown, Ohio, on Wednesday.
Sect leader Samuel Mullet Sr., along with two of his sons and his son-in-law, will be in court on Wednesday. Another son and two others will appear Friday.
The seven are accused of shaving the beards and cutting the hair of individuals who refused to support Mullet.
The men who were allegedly attacked are believed to be former members of Mullet’s group who left over various disagreements. Mullet wanted to “seek revenge and punish the departing families,” federal documents in the case said.
“In doing so, the defendants forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut off their beards and head hair with scissors and battery-powered clippers, causing bodily injury to these men while also injuring others who attempted to stop the attacks,” the Justice Department said. “In the Amish religion, a man’s beard and head hair are sacred.”
One of the group’s former members has compared the sect to the Peoples Temple cult, whose leader was Jim Jones. In 1978, the cult ended in a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.
“I’m not surprised if I have to call the sheriff some day and say there are a 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 man told a local TV station.
According to the FBI affidavit Mullet ran his 800-acre sect in Bergholz, a tiny community in Jefferson County, with an iron hand.
He took the married women from the sect into his home “so that he may cleanse them of the devil with acts of sexual intimacy,” the affidavit said.
He also forced members to sleep for days at a time in a chicken coop on his property and allowed some members to beat others who appeared to disobey Mullet’s rule.