Federal officials have arrested seven Amish men in Ohio and charged them with violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in connection with a string of beard-cutting incidents.
The seven Amish men arrested in an early-morning FBI raid were charged with violating the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Steven M. Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Northern Ohio, announced on Wednesday.
Samuel Mullet Sr., Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Schrock and Lester S. Mullet are accused of attacking members of the mainstream Amish community, allegedly as retaliation for a decision to overturn a series of excommunications dealt out by Samuel Mullet, Sr.
Mullet, who formed the breakaway Bergholz Clan in 1995, has been accused of running the clan like a cult. Mullet, according to an FBI affidavit, “has forced extreme punishments on and physical injury to those in the community who defy him, including forcing members to sleep for days at a time in a chicken coop on his property and allowing members of the Bergholz clan to beat other members who appear to disobey” him.
The affidavit also alleges that Mullet has been “been ‘counseling’ the married women in the Bergholz clan and taking them into his home so that he may cleanse them of the devil with acts of sexual intimacy.”
Mullet excommunicated eight families who chose to move away from his clan, meaning they could not re-enter other Amish communities. In 2005 or 2006, the complaint says, a group of seven Bishops overturned the excommunications. The first beard-cutting victim, in fact, was one of those Bishops.
That victim “stated that he would prefer to have been beaten black and blue than to suffer the disfigurement and humiliation of having his hair removed,” according to the FBI affidavit. A Holmes County Sheriff’s Detective who is a former member of the Amish community is advising the FBI.
The case unfolded in early October, when local authorities charged five members Mullet’s clan, known as the Bergholz Clan, with aggravated burglary and kidnapping, alleging they were involved in a series of six break-ins involving hair cutting. The FBI started investigating the incidents in late October. One recent attack was allegedly conducted by the victim’s son.
During a recorded phone call between Levin Miller and Samuel Mullet on Oct. 9, while Miller was in Holmes County Jail, Mullet reminded Miller how he “was in the ‘chicken house’ and ‘chicken shit’ for a long time. Miller told Mullet he was worried about the pictures they took and asked if “we” should get rid of them, and Mullet told him he would take care of the photos and not throw them away.
The FBI interviewed the operator of a business called New Bedford Sharpening Service in Baltic, Ohio who provided a receipt showing that he sold one mane sheer to Miller for $27.95 on Oct. 4. The sheers were eight inches long and special ordered from Bolivar, New York.
FBI Special Agent Michael S. Sirohman, who wrote the complaint, also uses interviews that Mullet conducted with WKYC and the Associated Press against him.
If convicted, the maximum sentence is life in prison.