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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sam Mullet: Amish Outlaw or Just Outlaw?

     Is a child still a child after he intentionally kills someone? Is a priest still a priest after sexually molesting a boy? A teenager kills his parents, should we consider him an orphan? A wife knocks-off her husband, is she still a widow and beneficiary of his life insurance? And what about an Amish man who threatens to kill people, and orchastrates terroristic home invasions? Should we consider this man Amish? I'm refering to Sam Mullet, the 66-year-old bishop of the Bergholz Amish group in eastern Ohio. Bishop Mullet is currently residing in another place where everybody wears the same clothing, the Jefferson County Jail.

     During a three week period in late September and early October 2011, men from the Bergholz clan, allegedly on Sam Mullet's orders, invaded Amish dwellings in Holmes and other Ohio counties where the intruders forceably cut the hair and beards off the men, and shaved the heads of the Amish women. These terroristic raids were intended to degrade, intimidate, and humiliate the targets of Sam Mullet's wrath. The bishop had allegedly asked his raiders to bring back photographs and clippings of his victim's hair as proof his orders had been carried out. (According to author and Amish scholar Donald B. Kraybill, men's beards and the uncut hair that Amish women roll into buns are treasured symbols of religious identity.)

     On October 8, 1011, Jefferson County Sheriff Frank Abdulia's (The sheriff claims that Sam Mullet has threatened to kill him.) deputies arrested Sam Mullet's sons, 38-year-old Johnny and 53-year-old Lester. The deputies also arrested Levi and Lester Miller. Johnny and Lester Mullet were charged with burglary and kidnapping in connection with the hair and beard cutting invasions in Holmes, Carroll, and Trumbell Counties. Shortly after their arrests, the Amish men were released after making bail.

     FBI agents and Jefferson County deputies, on November 22, arrested Sam Mullet, three of his sons, and three other men from the Bergholz group on federal civil rights charges as well as a number of state violations related to the hate crime home invasions. The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said, "While people are free to disagree about religion in this country, we don't settle those disagreements with late night visits, dangerous weapons, and violent attacks."

     Since his incarceration, Sam Mullet, through his federal public defender's office attorney, Ed Bryan, has been trying to get out of jail. Four of the home invasion defendants have been released on bond. The United States Attorney has successfully kept the bishop behind bars by arguing that he has a "penchant for violence," and is a danger to society.

     Last week, attorney Bryan suggested that his client be placed on electronic monitoring like many other defendants awaiting trial in federal court. The problem is, being old-order Amish, the bishop's house isn't connected to the power grid. Suddenly the bishop is a fan of electricity. In his recent release request, Mr. Mullet asserts that he is needed at home to tend to his household and farm related chores. Really? The man has 16 children, and who knows how many grandkids.

     While Sam Mullet dresses like an Amish man, has the beard, and rides around in a horse and buggy, I don't consider him Amish. But under the law, and our criminal justice system, it really doesn't matter if the bishop is Amish or not. If the judge considers him a danger to society, and I believe that he is, the bishop will not be at home doing his chores while attached to an electronic device. If he were truly Amish, he would be pleased by this.

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