The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Members of Amish Splinter Sect Arrested on Hate Crime Charges

By Bill Morlin on November 23, 2011 - 2:28 pm, Posted in Hate Crime

In the first case of its kind, the FBI on Wednesday arrested the leader of an Amish splinter sect and six of his followers in Ohio on federal hate crime charges for cutting the hair and beards of other Amish men and women.

The hair-cutting was a form of religious degradation and viewed as punishment in a leadership squabble among various Amish clans, court documents say.

“The defendants conspired to carry out a series of assaults against fellow Amish individuals with whom they were having a religiously-based dispute,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a joint statement.

The suspects “forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut off their beards and head hair with scissors and battery-powered clippers, causing bodily injury to these men while also injuring others who attempted to stop the attacks,’’ the statement said.

The case is unusual in that the Amish are pacifists who denounce violence and routinely handle their disputes and punishments internally without involving law enforcement.

“The fact that federal charges have been filed is stunning in this Ohio town, as the Amish seek to forgive those who have wronged them,” Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter John Caniglia reported Wednesday from Millersburg.

The attacks began in September and continued as recently as Nov. 9, prompting FBI agents to move quickly to make the arrests with a federal criminal complaint and arrest warrants signed by a U.S. Magistrate instead of waiting for the more-protracted grand jury indictment process.

In a federal criminal complaint filed in Cleveland, Samuel Mullet Sr., Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller and Emanuel Schrock, all of Bergholz, Ohio; and Lester S. Mullet, of Hammondsville, Ohio, are charged with using a deadly weapon and causing bodily injury because of the actual or perceived religion of their alleged victims.

The attackers used clippers and bought a $27.95 pair of horse mane sheers to carry out the hair- and beard-cuttings, photographing the disfigured victims afterwards, court documents say. The maximum potential penalty for these federal violations is life in prison.

Johnny, Daniel and Lester Mullet and Levi and Eli Miller were arrested in Holmes County, Ohio, on Oct. 7 on state charges of aggravated burglary and kidnapping with the intent to terrorize or commit serious injury. They were free on state bond when they were re-arrested Wednesday when a team of FBI agents and local police raided the Bergholz compound near Millersburg, Ohio.

Samuel Mullet Sr., who became the bishop of an Amish clan in Bergholz, Ohio, in 2003, is accused in charging documents with leading the hate crime conspiracy, directing his sons to cut the hair and beards of followers who he ex-communicated after they moved away. Other Amish bishops later determined Mullet’s excommunications weren’t in keeping with Amish teachings and scripture, and the defectors were allowed to join other Amish clans – apparently angering Mullet.

The charging documents allege Mullet has “forced extreme punishment and physical injury” on those in his community who defy him. He has forced his followers to “sleep for days at a time” in a chicken coop and allowed members of the Bergholz clan “to beat other members” who disobey Mullet.

He also “has 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,” the documents allege.

  • Ithink

    ^Honestly, I’m pretty much 100% in sync w/ Jacob Peters’ take on this one; and for the record, I don’t want to sinlge out the Amish because there is, of course, definitive evidence and history that events like this goes on in virtually every cultural, religious, political, or racial/ethnic group that can be define. But as disturbing and/or shocking as this may be to any outside reader or observer, there is no reason to doubt that, similar to sexual molestation and pedaphilia, these matters happen to a lot more people than we feel comfortable admitting behind closed corridors on a consistent basis: the difference being theu simply go unreported to authorities and the more passive-aggressive news media, whatever happens to be the sensationalist ‘flavor of the week,’ if you will.

    On the flip side, we probably shouldn’t blithely assume this is a consistent of this or any other Amish community, they do more or less live out that pacifist and communitarian stereotype the larger American culture has given to them. This does still reveal the larger flaws and dangers of any sort of cultural (i.e. religious, racial, lifestyle,etc.) sects that practice extreme isolationism/separatism in the name of ‘purity and preservation’, or some other esoteric, nonsensical self-righteous creed. Reality and past History dictates again and again that whether its countries (Japan pre-20th century), religions (all of them, to some extent) or ultranationalism (practiced in some way by every race or ethnic group), when these ‘splinter’ or spin-off entities become more detached from the Other, they only lead to their own self-demise and radicalization; we can only hope in a more globalized Earth they learn how assimilate with the rest if not necessarily intergrate…

  • Jacob Peters

    IMHO, any group that secludes itself from the rest of society tends to have problems like these. I do not believe that this is an isolated incident, given the Amish reluctance to report matters to Law Enforcement. I wonder how many other incidents like these or worse have been swept under the rug by the Amish community.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Well it’s sad to see the Amish community being tarnished by this latest rash of violence. But glad to see that laws are established in this country, to ensure that no group, no authority figure is above the law. And there is a price to pay when you break the laws in this country.

  • Rasheeda

    They say that Muslims are extremist. This shows that there is good and bad in all cultures. The Amish are quiet, peaceful people…at least that the image we are shown. Here you have a ‘nut’ to put it mildly, terrorizing his own people. It also goes to show you should not judge a tribe by a few ‘bad apples’. That goes for all cultures, religions, communities, race, creed, sex, etc…STOP!!! GOD IS WATCHING!!!

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Bill Morlin,

    This is something I thought I’d never see.

  • Linnea

    Just goes to show that no group is immune to extremist nut-cases.