Amish chief Samuel Mullet faces life in jail over beard attack

Prosecutors said the attacks constituted a hate crime

Samuel Mullet, the ringleader of a group behind a spate of beard- and hair-cutting attacks on members of an Amish community in Ohio, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Mullet, along with nine men and six women, were last year found guilty of assaulting dissenting members of an Amish community in Ohio in 2011. According to prosecutors, five attacks targeted Amish who defied Mullet’s authoritarian leadership of the settlement, which, like other Amish communities, strives to insulate itself from modernity.

Prosecutors said the attacks constituted a hate crime, given the Amish belief that the Bible instructs married men to grow beards and women to let their hair grow long.

Yesterday, ahead of the ruling by Judge Dan Polster in a Cleveland court, Mullet said his goal had been to “help people” but that he would accept punishment on behalf of his family members.

“I am being blamed for being a cult leader,” he said, according to local TV station WKYC. “I am not going to be here much longer ... my goal in life is to help the younger people ... if somebody needs to be punished, I’ll take the punishment for everybody ... let these mothers and fathers go home to their children.”

Earlier, in documents filed with the court, government prospectors called for Mullet, who was not himself accused of cutting anyone’s hair but rather of encouraging his sons and others to do so, to be given a life sentence. They said they had received 14 letters from Amish in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York asking for a lengthy jail sentence.

Citing what they allege was his iron grip over the Ohio community, prosecutors said: “Samuel Mullet’s control ... was – and is – absolute. He was able to get men to surrender their wives to him. Wives would be forced to leave their small children and live in Mullet Sr’s home so that they could be available to him.”

His defence team asked for a sentence of 18 months to two years, with his lawyer, Ed Bryan, saying that Mullet had no criminal history and, at the of 67, no longer posed a threat of committing any more crimes.

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