Deliberations resume in Amish beard bandit trial

Deliberations resume in Amish beard bandit trial
Amish suspects
Amish suspects
Photo presented during trial
Photo presented during trial
Photo presented during trial
Photo presented during trial

(WOIO) - The jury in the Amish beard bandits trial resumed deliberations this morning at 9 a.m.

The case for more than a dozen members of a break-away Amish group concluded late last week, and jurors started deliberating last Thursday.

16 men face federal hate crime charges for a series of hair-cutting attacks on other members of the Amish community. The attacks happened in Jefferson, Trumbull, Holmes and Carroll Counties.


During closing arguments, the prosecutor said it was a case of lawless violence in the name of religion, and said it was a brazen ambush.

A Holmes County Detective showed the jury several bags of evidence that was full of human hair.

Detective Bill Mullet walked the jury through the October 2011 attack on two Amish men in their own home by followers of Amish Bishop Sam Mullet.

Sam Mullet and 15 of his followers are on trial for hate crimes in connection with the cutting off of beards and hair of other Amish. Detective Mullet told the jury about the attack of Bishop Ray Hertzenberger and his son.

The bishop's hair and beard were cut, and he was bleeding from both sides of his head. The attackers also took pictures.

The Amish attackers used 8-inch horse shears to shave the men.

The detective showed the jury the hair of both men he collected from the floor of their home.

Andy Hertzberger told the jury that last October, a group of Sam Mullet's followers went to his house. They attacked his dad, Bishop Raymond Hertzberger, and cut off his beard and hair.

The detective testified that defendant Levi Miller admitted to the attacks and said that if he knew he was going to get caught, he would have cut a lot more beards off.

Barbara Miller, the sister of Sam Mullet, testified about when she and her husband were attacked by Mullet's followers, and said she was terrified.

Miller told the jury about a September 2011 attack on her and her husband. She said her own children, who lived with Mullet on his 800-acre compound in Jefferson County, attacked them with a group of Mullet followers.

Her hair was cut and her husband's beard was sheared. Miller told the jury she was terrified, and it was a horrific for her to see her kids attack her husband.

Nancy Miller Burkholder, Barbara's daughter, admitted she was part of the group of Mullet followers who cut her mother's hair and her father's beard in September of 2011.  She says it was done out of compassion and love.  She believed her parents were straying from the right way of living and had to be brought back to the correct path in order to get into heaven.   Nancy, who is Sam Mullet's niece, told the jury her parents had been verbally abusive to her brothers who also participated into the attack at her parents home in Trumbull County.  19 Action News Reporter Scott Taylor is reporting that Nancy testified she heard her mother, tell the attackers while they cut her hair, "God please forgive them."  Nancy broke down in tears on the witness stand when one of the defense lawyers asked her if testifying in the case was difficult for her.

Nancy Mullet, the daughter-in-law of Sam Mullet, testified while she was living on Mullet's 800 acre compound in Jefferson County with her husband, Eli, her father-in-law told her the only way to help her troubled marriage with his son was to follow his orders.  While Eli was in the hospital, Nancy says Sam told her to hug and kiss him.  Then he asked her to sit on his lap like all the other daughter-in-laws. It eventually turned sexual and Nancy testified that Sam told her that if they ever leave the compound, Eli would kill her and their six children.  Nancy also testified Mullet had so much control over people living at the compound that he would read any letters coming in or going out.  Nancy and Eli were eventually able to break away from Sam Mullet and now live in Pennsylvania.

Prosecutors say Sam Mullet ordered the violent hair cuts. The attacks were meant to humiliate and punish the people Mullet does not believe are faithful enough.

According to the affidavit, the defendants conspired to carry out a series of assaults against fellow Amish individuals with whom they were having a religiously-based dispute.

In doing so, the defendants forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut off their beards and head hair with scissors and battery-powered clippers, causing bodily injury to these men while also injuring others who attempted to stop the attacks.  In the Amish religion, a man's beard is considered sacred.

Mullet's son, Johnny, said he did it to help end a family feud, and it had noting to do with being Amish.

If convicted, Mullet could spend the next 20 years in jail.

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