Federal judge denies breakaway Amish leader’s request for release on bond

Amish sect leader Sam Mullet, accused of orchestrating a series of beard-cutting attacks against other Amish throughout Ohio, will remain jailed pending trial in March on federal hate crimes charges.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland today denied several release requests filed by Mr. Mullet’s public defender, Ed Bryan.

In his latest motion this morning, Mr. Bryan accused the Justice Department of deliberately invoking imagery of the Branch Davidians‘ fiery end nearly two decades ago in its attempts to keep Mr. Mullet locked up.

Mr. Bryan said the government is trying to portray Mr. Mullet, 66, bishop of the Bergholz community in Jefferson County, Ohio, as another David Koresh, the leader of the Davidians who perished with 81 followers in a fire in 1993 in Texas after a standoff with the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In asking the judge to keep Mr. Mullet jailed, the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland last week said he should not be let out because agents might then have to go to his “compound” in Bergholz to re-arrest him, risking an armed confrontation.

The government also said Mr. Mullet has issued death threats in the past and has complete control over his community — to the point where female members of his household need to ask him for permission to speak. […]

In previous hearings for Mr. Mullet and 11 of his followers under indictment, attorneys have also accused the Justice Department of likening Mr. Mullet to Jim Jones, the cult leader responsible for inciting the 1978 mass suicide of 909 followers in Guyana.

The Associated Press says

The federal raid on the compound left four agents and six Davidians killed in the initial gunbattle. The 51-day standoff ended when the complex burned, killing Koresh and nearly 80 of his followers.

Bryan disputed the characterization of Mullet’s farm as a fortified compound and said Mullet doesn’t have a stockpile of weapons.

“There is no walled ‘compound’ or single facility where individuals can barricade themselves against law enforcement officers executing arrest warrants,” the defense filing said.

A feud over church discipline allegedly led to attacks in which the beards and hair of men and hair of women were cut, which is considered deeply offensive in Amish culture.

The seven-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering in what prosecutors say were hate crimes motivated by religious differences.

Former Amish sect member compares Bergholz Clan to Peoples Temple cult
Read the Indictment

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday January 24, 2012.
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