Sam Mullet, the leader of a breakaway Amish clan, and eleven other members of an alleged hair-cutting mob pleaded not guilty to federal hate crimes charges.
In a hearing on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Mullet and eleven others pleaded not guilty to charges that they forcibly cut off the hair and beards of members of the mainstream Amish community.
The twelve are accused of attacking fellow Amish as retaliation for a decision to overturn a series of excommunications dealt out by Sam Mullet. Mullet, who formed the breakaway Bergholz Clan in 1995, allegedly orchestrated the string of break-ins and assaults, which involved forcibly cutting victims’ hair and beards, symbols of faith in the Amish community,.
Four of the accused hair-cutters, Lester Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Raymond Miller and Anna Miller were granted bail on a $20,000 bond.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Getz argued in a filing that Sam Mullet himself should be denied bail because he “is primarily and ultimately responsible for this series of violent attacks. They were carried out by his loyal and devoted followers, to settle his scores.”
The judge sided with Getz and denied Mullet and one of his sons bail, but Mullet’s attorney, Edward Bryan, argued that “the fear that something apocalyptic is going to happen at the hands of Sam Mullet is just that, a fear, a remote and irrational fear,” Bryan said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
In November, Mullet and seven others were arrested in an FBI raid and charged with violating the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Last month, a federal grand jury in Ohio returned a seven-count indictment charging them and four others related to the alleged attacks.
The trial is set for March 19.