Amish beard-cutting defendant has taxpayer-subsidized lawyer despite millions in the bank, prosecutors say

The leader of an Amish splinter sect accused of cutting the beards of religious enemies has received more than $2 million for oil rights to his 800-acre farm, yet continues to be represented by a taxpayer-financed public defender, according to a new court filing.

James F. McCarty, writing for The Plain Dealer, reports

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to require Samuel Mullet to hire a private attorney and to reimburse his public defender for work provided over the past five months. 

They also have asked that Mullet remain in jail pending his trial, citing fears that he and his followers might retreat to his farm and forcibly resist surrendering.

“The possibility of a violent encounter, this time with law enforcement, should not be readily dismissed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget Brennan wrote in the motion. “Accordingly, no amount of bond is sufficient to protect others from this defendant’s capacity for aggression.”

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster has not yet ruled on the prosecutors motion.

Mullet, 66, of Jefferson County, and 15 of his followers are accused of hate crimes and cover-ups for a series of assaults last fall involving forcibly cutting the beards and hair of fellow Amish members. The attacks were designed to settle scores with people with whom Mullet and his followers had disputes, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors accused Mullet of orchestrating the attacks, and have repeatedly argued against his release from jail pending a trial scheduled for Aug. 27.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Getz said Mr. Mullet has essentially manipulated the court system to obtain a discount defense. […]

Mr. Getz also argued that Mr. Mullet’s access to millions of dollars increases the risk that he would flee rather than reduces it, as Mr. Mullet and his lawyer argue.

Mr. Getz said that the government’s greatest fear is that Mr. Mullet will return to his 800-acre farm in Bergholz if released and hole up there with family and followers who are devoted to him, forcing a confrontation with federal agents.

He also said Mr. Mullet has complete control over Bergholz and that people in surrounding Amish communities are afraid of him. Included in his motion are four handwritten letters from people on the outside asking that Mr. Mullet remain behind bars.

“We think he is an evil, dangerous person,” wrote one. “Also a cult leader.”

Mr. Getz said it was not a coincidence that the beard-cuttings stopped after Mr. Mullet was arrested by the FBI.

Government’s Response in Opposition to Samuel Mullet’s Motion to Reconsider Order Denying Motion to Revoke Detention Order PDF file
Reasons behind the beard- and hair cutting attacks. Also addresses alleged abuses within Samuel Mullet’s so-called Bergholz Clan.
Read the indictment against Samuel Mullet and his followers

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday April 28, 2012.
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