Samuel Mullet Sr., the leader of a breakaway Amish sect in Ohio who orchestrated the forcible cutting of beards and hair among his own people, was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday for his role in the crimes.
Mullet, 67, received the lengthy sentence because prosecutors successfully proved that the attacks were hate crimes, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio. He was found guilty in September for being the ringleader of a group of breakaway Amish who perpetrated the attacks.
The Amish sect leader, who is a bishop in Bergholz, was one of 16 Ohio Amish sentenced to prison in a federal court in Cleveland.
“The actions of the defendants were designed to terrorize the victims, desecrate sacred symbols of their faith, and interfere with their right to worship. These prosecutions reflect the fact that the Department of Justice will not tolerate religiously motivated violence,” Thomas E. Perez, Thomas E. Perez, the U.S. assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
The case gained national attention, and prosecutors sought a life sentence for Mullet, pointing out that the crimes were motivated by hate.
“From day one, this case has been about the rule of law and defending the right of people to worship in peace. This was never about ‘haircuts.’ These were violent, religiously motivated home invasions that left the victims bloody, bruised, and beaten,” said Steven Dettlebach, Steven M. Dettelbach, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “Our nation was founded on the bedrock principle that everyone is free to worship how they see fit. Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country.”
Other defendants in the Amish haircutting case were found guilty of assaulting the victims.
Although prosecutors did not claim Mullet was involved in actually carrying out the violent acts, they said he tried to hide evidence of the attacks, including photographs and video footage of the crimes.
Mullet “exerted control” over his community by taking the wives of other men into his home and using corporal punishment, according to prosecutors.
Religious disputes caused Mullet and the other defendants to get retaliation by using “scissors and battery-powered clippers to forcibly cut or shave the beard hair of male victims and the head hair of the female victims,” prosecutors said.
The defendants who participated in the attacks held down the victims, while others used violence against those who tried to intervene in the crimes.
The way the Amish wear their hair is a symbol of faith. Men use their beards to signify that they are married, as the Amish don’t wear wedding rings.