Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trial of Amish sect members begins in Ohio

Yesterday, federal prosecutors in Cleveland, Ohio, began presentation of criminal charges against Samuel Mullett Sr. and 15 of his followers.  Mullett leads a small Amish sect "in an isolated settlement near Bergholz, Ohio," population 769.    Read the New York Times story here

The U.S. Attorney has charged Mullett and some of his followers with "multiple counts including conspiracy, hate crimes, kidnapping and destroying evidence."  The alleged crimes were all committed against other Amish with whom Mullett's sect had apparently fallen out.  Erik Eckholm for the Times reports:  
The assaults on the pacifist, plain-living Amish drew national attention because of their unusual nature--the forcible shearing of men's beards and women's long hair, both of which are central to Amish identity.
In one of the incidents the U.S. Attorney detailed, six grown children and their spouses, who were members of Mullett's group, attacked their parents, forcibly cutting their father's beard "down to the skin as he cried and screamed for them to stop," while five women "cut off two feet of the mother's hair as she prayed to God to forgive them."

Federal authorities assert in their filings that Mullett "confined followers in chicken coops for days or weeks to 'cleanse' them of impure thoughts or other sins, and had also had adult members hit one another with wooden paddles."

The trial of the matter will continue this week.  Bergholz is in nonmetropolitan Jefferson County, population 68,828, in east central Ohio. 

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