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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Sam Mullet: Amish Outlaw

     During a three week period in late September and early October 2011, a dozen Amish men from a breakaway Amish sect located in the village of Bergholz in southeastern Ohio, on Bishop Sam Mullet's orders, invaded Amish dwellings in nearby counties where the intruders forcibly 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 asked his raiders to bring back photographs and clippings of his Amish enemy's hair as proof his orders had been carried out. (According to author Donald B. Kraybill, Amish 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 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 Trumbull Counties. Shortly after the arrests, the Amish men were released after making bail.

     FBI agents and Jefferson County deputies, on November 22, 2011 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."

     Four of the home invasion defendants were released on bond. The United States Attorney successfully kept the bishop behind bars by arguing that he had a "penchant for violence," and was a danger to society. (Mullet had allegedly threatened to kill Jefferson County Sheriff Frank Abdulia.)

    Sam Mullet's Attorney suggested that his client be placed on electronic monitoring like many other defendants awaiting trial in federal court. The problem was, being old-order Amish, the bishop's house wasn't connected to the power grid. In one of his release requests, Mr. Mullet asserted that he was needed at home to tend to his household and farm related chores. The prosecution argued that because Mullet had 16 children, and many more grandchildren, that was a lie to get him out of jail.

     Found guilty in September 2012 of several federal hate crimes and related offenses, the judge sentenced Mullet to 15 years in prison.

     In March 2015, a U.S. appeals court overturned the hate crime convictions on procedural grounds. As a result, the federal judge re-sentenced Mullet to ten years behind bars.

    Mullet underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2017 to repair blockages in his arteries.

     On March 4, 2020, Sam Mullet was transferred from a federal prison near Cleveland to a halfway house in Youngstown, Ohio. He was scheduled to complete his prison sentence on January 18, 2021.

    The 74-year-old prisoner, on March 17, 2020,  asked United States District Court Judge Dan Polster to reduce his 10-year-sentence to time served due to his underlying health problems that made him vulnerable to the coronavirus. Three days after the request, Judge Polster ruled that Sam Mullet could finish out his prison sentence at home in Bergholz.

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