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Friday, October 14, 2011

Terrorism: Amish Style

     Sam Mullet is the bishop of an eighteen-family Amish enclave in and around the village of Bergholz, Ohio in Jefferson County in the eastern part of the state across the Ohio River from the northwest panhandle of West Virginia. Mullet's group has been at religious odds with the main body of old-order Amish clustered in Holmes and other counties in the eastern half of the state. During a three week period in late September and early October, men from the Bergholz splinter group, allegedly on Sam Mullet's orders, invaded Amish homes in Holmes and other counties where the intruders forceably cut the hair and beards off the men and shaved the heads of Amish women. The attackes were intended to degrade the targets of the intruders' wrath. Bishop Mullet had allegedly asked his raiders to bring him clippings of his victims' hair as proof that his mission had been carried out.

     Frank Abdalia, the sheriff of Jefferson County and long-time Mullet adversary, claims that the renegade bishop has threatened his life. Sheriff Abdalia has called the 66-year-old bishop "dangerous" and out of control.

     On October 8, 2011, Sheriff Abdalia's deputies arrested Sam Mullet's sons, 38-year-old Johnny and 53-year-old Lester. The officers also arrested Levi and Lester Miller. Johnny and Lester Mullet were charged with burglary and kidnapping in connection with the hair-cutting intrusions in Holmes, Carroll, and Trumbell Counties. They are being held on $250,000 bond each.

     Bergholz bishop Sam Mullet has been in the news before. In September 2008 his son, Chris Mullet, pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with two minors in 2003 and 2004. The judge sentenced him to probation. In my book, "SWAT Madness," I wrote about a 2007 SWAT raid on a Bergholz Amish schoolhouse. In that raid, Sheriff Abdalia seized the children of a Bergholz Amish man who claimed that members of the enclave had sexually molested his children. His wife, Wilma Troyer, had refused to let her husband take their children to another community. In "SWAT Madness," I criticized the sheriff for using a regional SWAT team to execute the court order. The Amish kids, having no ideal what was going on, thought they were all going to be killed by the heavily armed SWAT officers. Although I had no objection to the sheriff's mission, I questioned his methods.  

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