By Jim Kouri
A federal grand jury in Cleveland, Ohio, handed down a 10-count indictment in the criminal case United States v. Mullet, et al on Friday, according to a hate crime report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police’s Bias Crime Committee.
The indictment charges 10 men and six women, all of whom reside in Ohio, with committing a series of religiously-motivated assaults on practitioners of the Amish religion, according to Justice Department reports.
The superseding indictment references five separate acts of assault that occurred between September and November of 2011, and obstructive conduct related to those assaults, according to the criminal complaint.
In each assault, the mob of suspects forcibly cut the beards and hair from practitioners of the Amish faith with whom they had ongoing religious disputes. As described in the indictment, the manner in which Amish men wear their beards and Amish women wear their hair are symbols of their faith.
The superseding indictment adds four defendants — Lovina Miller, Kathryn Miller, Emma Miller and Elizabeth Miller — who were not previously charged in the assaults. The indictment also adds charges against some of the defendants for the concealment and destruction of evidence, including a disposable camera, shears and a bag of hair from victims of the attacks, as well as a charge against Samuel Mullet Sr., for false statements he allegedly made to federal agents during the investigation.
This case continues to be investigated by the Cleveland Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Getz and Bridget M. Brennan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio and Deputy Chief Kristy Parker of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.
The original indictment charged Samuel Mullet Sr., Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Shrock, Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller and Linda Shrock with conspiracy to violate 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, U.S. Code, Section 1512, which prohibits obstruction of justice, including witness tampering and the destruction or concealment of evidence.
The original indictment also charged various groups of defendants with each separate assault, and charged Samuel Mullet Sr., Lester Mullet, Levi Miller 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.
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, according to a Jefferson County (Ohio) sheriff’s deputy.
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, according to the superseding indictment.
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, the indictment states.
According to the reports, 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.
“For nearly 500 years, people have come to this land so that they could pray however and to whomever they wished,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach. “Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country.”
The maximum potential penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison. The maximum penalty for the hate crime charges is life in prison. The maximum penalty for the obstruction charge is 20 years in prison.
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