Appeals court denies bid for freedom by Amish sect leader

A federal appellate court has ruled that Amish sect leader Sam Mullet, charged in a series of beard-cutting attacks on other Amish in Ohio, will not be released pending trial on federal hate crimes charges in Cleveland.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of Cleveland did not make a mistake in siding with the government in deciding to keep Mr. Mullet behind bars.

Mr. Mullet, 66, and 15 of his followers, almost all of them related to him by blood or marriage, are charged under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act with attacking other Amish, lying to agents and destroying evidence.

Mr. Mullet’s public defender, Ed Bryan, had appealed the judge’s order, saying the evidence against his client does not favor detention, that Mr. Mullet is not a threat and that he has strong ties to the Amish community and so is not a risk to flee.


The three-judge appellate panel ruled otherwise, saying that the evidence shows he had prior knowledge of the attacks and that he gave media interviews in which he defended the assaults and said he could have stopped them.

The judges also said he has apparently violated previous court orders, threatened Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla’s life and exerts such complete control over his community in Bergholz, Jefferson County, that members have refused to talk to the FBI until he gives permission.

POSSIBILITY OF VIOLENT ENCOUNTER
The Associated Press earlier reported

Prosecutors also say Mullet should not be released on bond because of the possibility he could hole up on his 800-acre property and try to avoid attending his trial.

“The evidence has demonstrated that this defendant and his followers have not embraced the traditional Amish principles on nonviolence and forgiveness,” prosecutors said Wednesday. “The possibility of a violent encounter, this time with law enforcement, should not be readily dismissed.”

Prosecutors also say Lester Mullet’s request to go free before trial should be rejected since he “joyfully” participated in the attacks last fall and said he would do it again, according to a filing on Thursday.

The filing included portions of a transcript of a jailhouse call Lester Mullet made to his father, sister, wife and others, in which the participants laugh about getting half a victim’s beard.

“Given what we know about Lester Mullet’s role in these attacks and his willingness to obstruct the government’s investigation, there is simply no condition or set of conditions that will reasonably assure his attendance at court proceedings or the safety of a community that has been terrorized by this violence,” prosecutors said.

MULLET TO PAY FOR OWN DEFENSE

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster said Mullet must pay for his own legal defense and in addition, he will have to pay twice the normal rate for a federal public defender.

WKYC-TV says

Last month, the man of modest means became an instant millionaire.

Mullet got a reported $2 million for leasing part of his 800-acre farm to gas and oil companies.

He’d previously been ruled legally indigent and was using a federal Public Defender in court.

Federal prosecutors argued Mullet could now afford to pay for a private lawyer and asked a judge to require that. […]

[The Judge] allowed Mullet to keep using the public defender’s office but Polster said Mullet must pay twice the rate — $250/hour.

Mullet had also asked to be free on bond that he could not afford to post.

Polster refused that request, agreeing with prosecutors that Mullet was a danger to the community. Polster said Mullet might have more influence in the Amish community with his new-found wealth.

Mullet got half of the oil lease payment. His wife controls the other half.

They will get additional royalties depending on how much oil and gas their land produces.

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This post was last updated: May. 2, 2012