Amish Convicted In Religiously Motivated Attacks – 9/20/2012

US History |

On September 20th of 2012, sixteen Amish extremists who lived about a hundred miles southwest of Cleveland, Ohio, were convicted of federal hate crimes and conspiracy. Their crimes consisted of forcibly cutting the beards and hair of fellow Amish men whose religious beliefs did not precisely match their own. 

Beards and long hair have an important religious significance to the Amish, which is why the assault was considered a federal offense and a hate crime. In any case, it was definitely an act of assault. The Amish are generally known for their pacifism. However, there existed a dissident, ultra conservative Amish sect near Bergholz, Ohio. The sect was overseen by Samuel Mullett Sr., an Amish Bishop and the father of 18 children. Samuel Mullett Sr. was the leader of a group of about eighteen families who lived on the farm on the outskirts of Bergholz. Mullett Sr. had masterminded the attacks, although he did not take part in them. All of the attacks took place in 2011.

Ohio has an Amish population of about sixty thousand. However, these five separate assaults that involved nine people spread fear through all Amish communities. The attackers sometimes carried shears, and restrained most of their victims, sometimes hurting those who tried to help. After the attacks, the attackers took photographs, perhaps as proof to their leader of what they had done, or perhaps to induce further humiliation from their victims.

Although Amish people do not normally involve entities outside of their own communities, some of the beard cutting victims notified local police, and implicated Samuel Mullett Sr. as having something to do with the crimes. Mullett and some of his followers were arrested in late 2011. The case went to trial in August of 2012. It was the first case in the state of Ohio to apply a landmark law, passed in 2009, called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, This legislation allows the government to crack down extra hard on people who are convicted of hate crimes motivated by bigotry.

The prosecution presented witness testimony showing that Samuel Mullett Sr. was running some sort of a cult. His transgressions included punishing adults (such as whacking them with paddles), and convincing married females to have sex with him under the guise of marriage counseling. However, the court case was not about the cult, or any other acts committed by Samuel Mullett Sr. Mullett's defense team merely insisted that the beard cutting acts were not hate crimes but personal grudges, and therefore mere assaults, worthy of a much lighter punishment. The defense team was unsuccessful. 

That's why on September 20th of 2012, Samuel Mullett was convicted, along with three of his sons, one of his daughters, and eleven of his followers. A Cleveland judge sentenced Mullett to 15 years behind bars, despite that he had not been physically involved in any of the attacks. The other 15 people who were convicted got jail terms ranging from one to seven years. 

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