Federal prosecutors will be allowed to question witnesses about Amish leader Sam Mullet’s sexual activities when the hate-crime trial of Mullet and 15 followers begins next week, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster also agreed to allow testimony about Mullet’s use of corporal punishment to control followers, but forbid prosecutors from describing his group with words such cult, sect, clan, band, schism, faction, off-shoot, breakaway, renegade, rogue or splinter group. Witnesses, however, can use any terms they choose.
Mullet and his followers are charged with hate crimes over beard- and hair cutting attacks of fellow Amish.
According to the FBI 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. [Read: Why Amish leaders rejected Mullet’s excommunications]
An FBI affidavit says two former followers say Mullet controls all aspects of the lives of the members of his group — the so-called Bergholz clan.
The witnesses also claim that — 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 claim 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.”
Prosecutors say this alleged sexual ‘counseling’ shows the control Mullet had over followers at their eastern Ohio farm complex.
The trial will begin next Monday in Cleveland, Ohio.
Prosecutors said they expect several women to testify to having sexual relations with Mullet. That testimony, prosecutors said, will support the premise that Mullet, a bishop, used the sexual liaisons to exert control over his flock, which contributed to disputes in the community and provided the motivation behind the hair-cutting assaults.
Mullet, 66, of Bergholz in Jefferson County, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
According to the indictment, women in the Bergholz Amish community were expected to leave their husbands and children and to live with Mullet. Anyone who disobeyed or resisted was ostracized from the community, the charging document said.
One former member who lived with the group between 2000 and 2006 has compared Mullet’s group to the Peoples Temple cult.
“I’m not surprised if I have to call the sheriff some day and say there are a lot of dead people lying around here. That would not be a surprise to me nor would it be a surprise to the sheriff of that county,” he told NCB Affiliate WKYC last October:
“I have enough inside information that I have no question if something is not done, there will be people that get hurt,” Ayden said.
The former member says there were forced beatings, pitting one member against another.
Ayden says there is a heavy price to pay for disagreeing with Sam Mullet.
“He would take the wife from the man. The wife would have to go and live with Sam. The husband of that wife would have to go to the chicken coop or out in the barn in the middle of the winter, sometimes day and night,” Ayden said.
Arlene Miller and her family say they helped get Mullet’s son, Bill, and family out of Bergholz about the same time Ayden left. She heard many stories.
“The brainwashing, the beatings, the locking up, and the women he is using,” Miller said.
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