Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sex abuse case in Missouri Amish community

A New York Times story, dateline Curryville, Missouri, population 251, appeared yesterday under the headline, "A Crisis in Amish Country." It reports that Chester Mast, a 26-year-old Amish man who is married and the father of two children, is accused in two sexual assault cases. Investigators also believe he sexually abused other girls ranging in age between 5 and 15. The Amish community have excommunicated Mast (most recently, this year, for the third time), and they have also now turned the matter over to local authorities. An excerpt from Malcolm Gay's story follows:
The criminal charges, a rarity for a religious congregation that often resolves its disputes internally, offer an unusual glimpse into an Amish community in crisis. They have also laid bare the fault lines that divide this insular society that resides some 95 miles northwest of St. Louis.

Sgt. Sean Flynn of the Pike County Sheriff's Department is quoted:

There is no gray area — people are either 100 percent for Chester, or they are 100 percent against him. ... Some people are holding it against some of the victims and their families for what they’ve done to Chester; some people think it should have happened a lot sooner. There’s really no middle ground. ... There is still the thought that there are other victims out there.

Pike County's population is 18,351.

One interesting legal aspect of the matter is the conflict between Mast's court-appointed public defender and the Amish community, who wish to be in contact with him, even as he is being held in jail on a $100,000 bond and awaiting a December trial. Mast's lawyer, Lisa Morrow, banned the elders from visiting her client after she learned they were "sharing important information about the case." Morrow is quoted: “The legal system doesn’t care about your religious beliefs. When it comes to time in prison, I have to look out for my client.”

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