Amish Indicted for Hate Crime in Forcible Beard-Cutting

In the first case of its kind, a federal grand jury in Cleveland on Dec. 20 indicted 12 Amish people on hate crime charges for cutting the hair and beards of other Amish men and women, a form of religious degradation they allegedly viewed as punishment.

The 10 men and two women “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,” according to a statement issued by the U.S. Justice Department.

Among the defendants was Samuel Mullet Sr., who became the bishop of an Amish clan in Bergholz, Ohio, in 2003. He stands accused of leading the hate crime conspiracy.

Mullet was apparently angry that people he had excommunicated were allowed to join other clans after their bishops determined his actions weren’t in keeping with Amish teachings and scripture. His team of attackers used horse mane sheers, among other tools, to carry out the attacks and photographed the victims afterward, court documents say.

The case is unusual in that the Amish are pacifists who denounce violence. The charging documents allege Mullet has “forced extreme punishment and physical injury” against 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 him. Mullet 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 defendants all pleaded not guilty on Jan. 11. Because they refused to wear electronic monitoring devices, Mullet and six other men have been detained without bond. The rest of the defendants were released on bond, and all were scheduled to appear in court on March 2.

Levi Miller, Johnny Mullet, Lester Mullet
Levi Miller, Johnny Mullet and Lester Mullet were indicted for a hate crime in forcible beard-cutting.