Photo: U.S. Department of Justice
They say the mullet hairstyle is business in the front but party in the back. But there isn’t much of a party where the ironically-named Samuel Mullet, Sr. is concerned: The leader of a breakaway Amish group in Ohio is facing life in prison for forcibly cutting off the beards of Amish men and the hair of Amish women who had left his compound.
A Cleveland jury on September 20 convicted Mullet, who is 66, and 15 of his followers for five separate religiously-motivated assaults on other Amish practitioners last fall. Some of the defendants were also convicted of assault, kidnapping, concealing evidence, conspiracy, and making false statements to the FBI, according to the Department of Justice.
They were prosecuted under the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which “prohibits any person from wilfully causing bodily injury to any person, or attempting to do so by use of a dangerous weapon, because of the actual or perceived religion of that person.”
In the assaults, the defendants reportedly “sheared them almost like animals, leaving them bloodied, bruised and beaten,” according to Steven Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “These were no mere haircuts. These were violent attacks . . . [leaving victims] so shaken and scared that they felt compelled to call on local law enforcement.”
“The assaults all entailed using scissors and battery-powered clippers to forcibly cut or shave the beard hair of the male victims and the head hair of the female victims,” according to the DOJ. “During each assault, the defendants restrained and held down the victims. During some of the assaults, the defendants injured individuals who attempted to intervene to protect or rescue the victims.”
Don’t Let the Name Fool You
As the bishop of an Amish community outside of Bergholz, Ohio, Sam Mullet ruled with an iron fist; according to the DOJ, he took in wives of other men and dispensed corporal punishment to community members as discipline. The community, which lives on an 800-acre compound, broke away from a larger Amish population and consists primarily of Mullet’s relatives.
The Amish believe that men’s beards and women’s long hair signify their faith. The victims had tried to flee Mullet’s community, but he and his vigilante group were having none of it. The shearings were part of their religious dispute, according to the DOJ.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 2013. Mullet and his followers face life in prison under the federal hate crimes law, but a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office reportedly said federal guidelines in this case call for about 17 and a half years.
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