Judge rules against Amish sect leader

A federal judge today rejected Amish sect leader Sam Mullet’s attempt to have some of the government’s allegations against him stricken from a hate crimes indictment, saying the descriptions of Mr. Mullet’s influence in his Ohio enclave are necessary for a jury to understand the case.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster ruled that the language of the indictment, which includes descriptions of Mr. Mullet’s sexual and disciplinary practices, will not be altered.

Mr. Mullet and 15 followers, almost all of them relatives, are awaiting trial in Cleveland on charges related to five beard-cutting attacks against Amish leaders in Ohio that the Justice Department contend were motivated by a religious dispute over how Mr. Mullet ran his community.

It’s the first case brought under the 2009 federal hate crimes law that involves a conflict within a religion.

The FBI says Mullet controlled members of his clan with corporal punishment or acts of self-deprivation, and that he had intercourse with other men’s wives to “counsel” them.

Mullet had objected to those claims.

According to The Associated Press

U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster said Mullet’s role in the community is central to allegations he aided and abetted the assaults.

Mullet’s attorney Ed Bryan said Tuesday he accepts Polster’s ruling but hopes to keep the language out of the trial itself.

The hate crimes indictment and an earlier FBI search-warrant affidavit say the beard cutting attacks came about because Mullet was angry that other Amish bishops refused to accept his excommunication of members who had chosen to leave his group.

The Associated Press noted that cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.

A former member of Mullet’s group says Mullet moved with some 120 fellow Amish to Bergholz, Ohio, some 15 years ago.

He has compared the group, sometimes referred to in the media as the Bergholz clan, to the Peoples Temple cult.

A previous report details the reasons behind the beard- and hair cutting attacks, and also addresses alleged abuses within Samuel Mullet’s so-called Bergholz Clan.
Read the original indictment and the subsequent, updated indictment

Note: in news reports, Sam Mullet has also been referred to as Samuel Mullet.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 30, 2012.
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