A Cleveland federal grand jury has returned a seven-count indictment charging ten men and two women, all Ohio residents, with federal crimes arising out of a series of religiously-motivated assaults on practitioners of the Amish religion.
19 Action News is unveiling some twisted revelations in the beard bandits caper. Their ring leader is considered a real "sick-O" with disturbing pleasures.
His name is Samuel Mullet Sr. and the federal indictment paints him as the leader of the Amish Sect that was terrorizing any other Ohio Amish that dared to go against him. And their punishment; cutting of men's beards, and women's hair, one of the most degrading things you can do to someone of that religious belief.
In the court documents we find out that Mullet Sr. had a taste for the wives of the men in his following. The indictment states he counseled them on how to be sexually satisfied and the women were expected to leave their husband and children to live with Mullet, and be sexually intimate with him.
As for the beard and hair cuttings we find they were carried out with 8-inch horse mane scissors -- sharp enough to cut through leather.
There were a total of five separate alleged attacks, occurring between September through November 2011. In each assault, defendants forcibly removed beard and head hair from practitioners of the Amish faith with whom they had ongoing religious disputes. One was even carried out after a cup of coffee was laced with a drug to make a man sick. To further the cult mentality -- a phone tap caught Mullet saying they would carry out more attacks, saying the community was "ready to do it again."
The indictment charges Samuel Mullet, 66, of Bergholz, Ohio; Johnny S. Mullet, 37, Bergholz, Ohio; Daniel S. Mullet, 37, of Bergholz, Ohio; Levi F. Miller, 53, of Bergholz, Ohio; Eli M. Miller, 32, of Bergholz, Ohio; Emanuel Shrock, age unknown, of Bergholz, Ohio; Lester Miller, 37, of Irondale, Ohio; Raymond Miller, 37, of Irondale, Ohio; Freeman Burkholder, 30, of Irondale, Ohio; Anna Miller, age unknown, of Bergholz, Ohio; Linda Shrock, age unknown, of Bergholz, Ohio, and Lester Mullet, 26, of Hammondsville, Ohio with conspiracy to violate Title 18, United States Code, Section 249, also known as the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which prohibits any person from willfully causing bodily injury to any person, or attempting to do so by use of a dangerous weapon, because of the actual or perceived religion of that person, and Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512, which prohibits obstruction of justice, including witness tampering and the destruction or concealment of evidence.
The indictment also charges various groups of defendants with each separate assault, and charges Samuel Mullet, Sr., Levi Miller, Lester Mullet, and Lester Miller with concealing or attempting to conceal various items of tangible evidence, including a camera, photographs, and an over-the-counter medication that was allegedly placed in the drink of one of the assault victims.
The maximum potential penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison. The maximum penalty for the Section 249 charges is life in prison. The maximum penalty for the obstruction charge is twenty years in prison.
According to the indictment, Samuel Mullet, Sr., is the Bishop of the Amish community in Bergholz, Ohio, while the remaining defendants are all members of that community. Mullet, Sr., exerted control over the Bergholz community by taking the wives of other men into his home, and by overseeing various means of disciplining community members, including corporal punishment.
As a result of religious disputes with other members of the Ohio Amish community, the defendants planned and carried out a series of assaults on their perceived religious enemies. The assaults involved the use of hired drivers, either by the defendants or the alleged victims, because practitioners of the Amish religion do not operate motor vehicles. The assaults all entailed using scissors and battery-powered clippers to forcibly cut or shave the beard hair of the male victims and the head hair of the female victims, according to the indictment.
During each assault, the defendants restrained and held down the victims. During some of the assaults, the defendants injured individuals who attempted to intervene to protect or rescue the victims. Following the attacks, some of the defendants participated in discussions about concealing photographs and other evidence of the assaults, according to the indictment.
"For nearly 500 years, people have come to this land so that they could pray however and to whomever they wished," Dettelbach said. "Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country."
"One of our most fundamental rights is freedom of religion," Anthony said. "The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, are committed to protecting this fundamental right against those who would use violence and intimidation to attack it."
This case is being investigated by the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Getz and Bridget M. Brennan of the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio and Deputy Chief Kristy Parker of the Civil Rights Division's Criminal Section.