The FBI has recovered a disposable camera that reportedly was used to photograph Amish men and women whose beards and hair were forcibly shaved in what is now being prosecuted as a federal hate crime.
That detail is contained in a new, expanded 10-count federal indictment just returned by a grand jury in Cleveland. The indictment increases the number of defendants from seven to 16.
The victims and the defendants in the case are Amish – traditionally pacifists who usually resolve their disputes internally without law enforcement. The beards and hair of the victims were sheared, federal court documents allege, to disgrace the victims as punishment for “previous and ongoing religious disagreements” with members of the Amish faith in Ohio.
The 16 defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the superseding indictment on April 19 in Cleveland. They are accused of conspiracy and violating the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, enacted in 2009.
During the assaults, the attackers took pictures “to memorialize the appearances of certain victims,” the new indictment says. After the FBI began an investigation, with seven initial arrests on Nov. 23, some of those involved in the alleged conspiracy were told to “conceal the camera from law enforcement” or dispose of it.
In December, the camera was placed into plastic bags and buried under vegetative debris at the foot of a tree in a wooded area on the property of the Amish bishop accused of orchestrating the attacks. On March 16, the man who hid the camera – identified in court documents only as “J.M.” – dug it up and turned it over to the FBI, court documents say.
Investigators have not said whether they were able to recover any images.
The attackers are accused of entering private homes and carrying out the hate crimes with Wahl battery-operated hair clippers and 8-inch horse mane shears “sharp enough to cut through leather.” The case involves sexual and corporal punishment allegations, too, and one alleged instance where a victim was given a cup of coffee laced with something to make him sick, court documents say.
Some of the women who were attacked apparently were targeted because they disobeyed orders to have sex with Bishop Samuel Mullet Sr., the leader of the faction accused of carrying out the attacks, the documents allege.
Mullet Sr., who is married and has 16 children, attempted to counsel other women “on how to be sexually satisfied in their marriages,” the indictment alleges. “To this end,” it says, “the women were expected to leave their husbands and children and live in Samuel Mullet Sr.’s house where they were further expected to be sexually intimate with him.”
“The women who disobeyed or resisted this practice were ostracized from the faction” led by Mullet.
There were four separate attacks, involving nine male and female victims, between Sept. 6 and Nov. 9 in Trumbull, Holmes and Jefferson counties in Ohio, according to details contained in the 21-page superseding indictment.
In the first attack, nine of the defendants and other participants not indicted hired a driver on Sept. 6 and traveled from Bergholz, Ohio, in Jefferson County to a couple’s residence in Trumbull County. Participants in that attack are identified in the indictment as Eli M. Miller, Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller, Lovina Miller, Kathryn Miller, Emma Miller and Elizabeth Miller.
The accused attackers entered the couple’s home and forcibly restrained them, using the hair clippers to cut off a male victim’s beard and the head hair of both, the indictment says. The hair clippings and the woman’s bonnet were put in a plastic bag and returned to Mullet Sr. After seeing the apparent evidentiary trophies, he ordered them burned in an outdoor trash pile.
The second attack occurred on Sept. 24, when a lone man was invited to the home of defendant Emanuel Shrock near Bergholz where the victim was given a cup of coffee “laced with an over-the-counter product intended to make (him) ill,” the indictment says. Afterward, while the man was taking a walk on the property, he was “forcibly restrained” and suffered bodily injury while Levi Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Shrock and others not identified cut off the victim’s beard and hair.
The third incident occurred on Oct. 4 when five men, identified in the indictment as Johnny S. Mullet, Danny S. Mullet, Lester S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller and Eli M. Miller, entered two homes and cut the beards and hair of four victims.
The fourth and final assault occurred on Nov. 9 when a man and a woman traveled to a home near Bergholz where they had their hair forcibly removed by Emanuel and Linda Shrock after telling a sheriff earlier that day that such an attack wouldn’t occur.
As word of the hair-cutting assaults became public, the indictment says, Mullet Sr. gave media interviews claiming the beard- and hair-cuttings were “all about religious disputes” that started with his sect excommunicating members that weren’t listening to or obeying the laws.
Court documents allege Mullet engaged in “extreme punishment and physical injury,” forcing some of his followers to sleep for days in a chicken coop and allowing other followers to beat members who disobeyed him.