SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

September 1, 2012

Amish Bishop shamed – suffering


Witness: Shearing shamed Amish men


Sam Mullet Sr., the leader of a breakaway Amish group, and 15 others are on trial in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND — A haircutting attack on an Amish bishop left him so ashamed that he stopped preaching and refused to attend a family wedding because he didn’t want anyone to see him without his beard, his son testified yesterday at the trial of 16 Amish men and women accused of carrying out a series of hate crimes on church leaders in Ohio.

In the minutes after the surprise encounter last fall, Andy Hershberger said, he looked toward his 77-yearold father. Gray clumps of hair from the beard his father had grown since marriage covered the floor where he sat.    “He was shaking all over,” Hershberger said. “He was crying and crying.”

Federal prosecutors say that a dispute between the leader of a breakaway Amish group and other bishops who sought to overrule his authoritarian methods led to the hair- and beard-cutting attacks that struck fear into Ohio’s normally peaceful Amish community.

Those accused of planning and taking part in the attacks targeted the hair and beards of Amish bishops because of its spiritual significance in the faith, prosecutors said. Most Amish men do not shave their beards after marriage, believing it signifies their devotion to God.

Prosecutors say there were five different attacks last fall, orchestrated by Sam Mullet Sr., who two decades ago established an Amish settlement outside the tiny town of Bergholz, near the West Virginia panhandle. All of the defendants, who live in the settlement, could face lengthy prison terms if convicted on charges that include conspiracy and obstructing justice. Mullet has denied ordering the hair-cutting but said he didn’t stop anyone from carrying it out.

Attorneys for the defendants have not denied that the hair cuttings took place and said in opening statements that members of the breakaway group took action out of compassion and concern that some Amish were straying from their beliefs.

The attorneys also contended that the Amish are bound by different rules guided by their religion and that the government shouldn’t get involved in what amounted to a family or church dispute.

Sam Mullet Sr., the leader of a breakaway Amish group, and 15 others are on trial in Cleveland.

(This is a second and separate article on the goings on within this community.  This on even more than the hair-cutting shows the depravity of this person, Sam Mullet.  Jan) 

Witness Describes Domination of Amish Leader


Published: August 30, 2012

CLEVELAND — A sobbing daughter-in-law of Samuel Mullet Sr., the Amish leader on trial here with 15 followers for terrorizing the Amish of eastern Ohio with beard-cutting attacks, said on Thursday that Mr. Mullet had repeatedly called her into his bedroom for sex in 2008, at one point sending his wife to fetch her.

The testimony of the daughter-in-law, Nancy Mullet, provided some of the most dramatic moments yet in a trial filled with accounts of violent attacks and bitter feuds among the normally peaceful Amish. It also provided the strongest evidence yet of what prosecutors and his Amish critics describe as Mr. Mullet’s cultlike domination of the 18 families, nearly all his relatives, who lived around him in an isolated valley near Bergholz, Ohio.

Mr. Mullet, nine other men and six women are charged with conspiracy and federal hate crimes in a series of assaults last fall in which members of the Bergholz community cut off the beards and hair of men and women they perceived as enemies. Mr. Mullet did not personally join in the attacks, but prosecutors called him the mastermind.

Uncut beards are a symbol of faith and identify for Amish men, and women refer to their long hair, kept concealed under caps or scarfs, as their “glory.”

Trying to avoid the steady glare of Mr. Mullet, 66, Mrs. Mullet testified that after her husband, Eli, had psychiatric breakdowns, her father-in-law first told her to sit in his lap and kiss him, then days later had her sleep with him nightly for what he called marriage counseling.

“He told me the other ladies had done the same thing,” Mrs. Mullet said, and that her husband “would not get better” if she did not accept his attentions.

“I didn’t want to do it, but I was afraid not to,” she said, bursting into tears. “I thought if this is what it takes to help Eli, I’ll do it.”

In other signs of Mr. Mullet’s control over followers, which led other Amish to condemn his methods, Mrs. Mullet said that church members had to get permission from him to send letters to outsiders and that he often read them first, and also read their incoming mail.

Nancy and Eli Mullet left Bergholz in late 2008, moving near her parents in Greenville, Pa.

Mr. Mullet’s lawyer, in cross-examination of Mrs. Mullet, acknowledged that Mr. Mullet had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior. “It was wrong,” the defense lawyer, Edward G. Bryan, said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t.”

Defense lawyers have not challenged victims’ accounts of the attacks. Rather, they have questioned whether the attacks were meant to cause bodily harm and had religious motives, conditions needed to satisfy the 2009 federal hate-crimes law.

Further criticism of Mr. Mullet came on Wednesday and Thursday morning in testimony from his sister Barbara Miller. After six of her seven children moved to Bergholz, saying they wanted to lead more conservative Amish lives, Mrs. Miller and her husband followed them in 2007.

Mrs. Miller testified that after three and a half months she and her husband left, because, she said, she saw that her brother had become a “dictator.” Her children and others there, she said, had become like “zombies; there was no emotion.”

Mrs. Miller and her husband, Martin, who live two hours north of Bergholz, were the first victims in the beard and hair attacks. Last Sept. 6, their six estranged children and their spouses pushed into their house and sheared Mr. Miller’s beard and hair, then cut Mrs. Miller’s waist-length hair to above her ears.

Their daughter, Nancy M. Burkholder, who was granted immunity from prosecution and compelled to testify, said Thursday that she had helped “take the beard and hair” of her parents in order “to help them lead a proper Amish life.”

A version of this article appeared in print on August 31, 2012,


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