Prosecution Calling Final Witnesses in Week 3 of Amish Beard Cutting Trial
Federal Prosecutors are wrapping up their case against Amish Bishop Samuel Mullet Sr. and 15 of his followers. The 16 defendants are accused of federal hate crimes for attacks on nine Amish men and women in Ohio last fall in which the victims’ beards and hair were cut. Mullet, 66, is accused of orchestrating the attacks although he did not participate in them.
Mullet’s daughter, Barbara Yoder, testified Monday (09/10/2012) that her father said “[the attacks] would help stop people from being Amish hypocrites.”
However, reportedly under cross-examination Yoder testified that while Samuel Mullet Sr. knew of the attacks, and endorsed them after the fact, he never ordered them himself.
We are currently in the third week of trial and the prosecution has called a series of witnesses to provide rare insight into what life was like in the small Amish sect under Mullet’s leadership, some even calling it a “cult.”
The court has heard testimony of Mullet’s disciplinary practices such as requiring his followers to sleep in chicken coops for weeks or even cutting their own beards. The prosecution has also called several women to testify that they were coerced into having sex with him so he could “turn them into better wives.” Prosecutors allege that this form of marriage “counseling” shows the level of control that Mullet had over his followers. However, Mullet is not charged with any sex crimes.
Prosecutors are expected to call two more witnesses today. Defense attorneys will then likely argue for dismissal of the charges.
A key element in proving a hate crime under the federal statute used in this case is demonstrating that the attacks were religiously motivated. In the Amish community a married man’s beard and a woman’s hair have significant spiritual significance, symbolizing a righteous life. Amish men often don’t shave their beards after marriage.
The defense has argued that the attacks were motivated by personal and family feuds that do not meet the religious motivation requirement for a hate crime under the federal statute.
Wild About Trial will keep you updated and informed as this 3-week trial wraps up.
RYAN KERNS, Esq., Wild About Trial