Jurors should be allowed to hear about alleged sexual “counseling” of Amish wives by a man charged with masterminding beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio, prosecutors told a federal judge Friday.
Prosecutors outlined the strategy in a legal brief in the case of 16 Amish defendants facing trial Aug. 27 in Cleveland before U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster. The government brief said alleged sexual “counseling” of wives by alleged ringleader Samuel Mullet Sr. shows the control he had over followers at their eastern Ohio farm complex.
“His ability to convince those women, as well as their husbands and parents, to permit him to do so, establishes the extent of defendant Mullet’s control over the community,” the government said.
Based on that, the government said, the jury can conclude that Mullet was aware of last year’s attacks and approved.
In addition to the sexual conduct issues, alleged paddling rituals and punishing members by sending them to a chicken coop “are not inflammatory; they are undisputed facts” that the jury should hear, the government said.
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.
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.
The FBI Affidavit quotes two witnesses, both former members of the Bergholz Clan, who state that Samuel Mullet, Sr. controls all aspects of the lives of Bergholz clan members.
No decisions are made — and no visitors are permitted — without his permission. Too, the witnesses claim, in disregard for Amish teachings and scripture Mullet has forced extreme punishments and physical injury to those in the community who defy him.
They say Mullet has forced members to sleep in a chicken coop for days, and has allowed members of the clan to beat other members who disobeyed him.
The former members also say Mullet has been “counseling” married women in his clan, taking them into his home “so that he may cleanse them of the devil with acts of sexual intimacy.”
According to The Plain Dealer
[Samuel Mullet’s attorney Edward] Bryan and other defense attorneys have sought to keep evidence of Mullet’s sexual activities with members of his community out of the trial. Prosecutors said Mullet’s sex with women in his community “establishes the extent of defendant Mullet’s control over the community.”
The motions also addressed the Bergholtz community, about two hours southeast of Cleveland, and what witnesses have called a cult. Defense attorneys also have sought to keep the word out of the trial.
“The government does not intend to argue or present evidence to prove that defendant Samuel Mullet Sr. and his followers were part of a cult,” wrote Bridget Brennan, an assistant U.S. Attorney.
“What is clearly at issue, however, is the nature of the religious dispute that caused” the attacks.
She said some of the witnesses have testified in earlier hearings that the disputes involved the victims “having referred to defendant Mullet Sr. as a ‘cult leader’ and his Bergholz community as a ‘cult.’ ”
Brennan said the witnesses should be allowed to “fully describe how they felt about defendant Mullet, and the things that they said about him and his community is evidence that should not be excluded from trial because it defines the religious nature of the dispute.”
This 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 FBI’s Affidavit, the original indictment and the subsequent, updated indictment