12 breakaway Amish indicted in hair assault

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A federal grand jury in Cleveland on Tuesday indicted 12 members of a breakaway Amish sect living in Jefferson County, Ohio, in connection with religiously motivated beard-cutting attacks on other Amish community members across Ohio.

Seven men, including reputed church leader Sam Mullet, 66, had previously been arrested by the FBI on Nov. 23 and ordered detained pending trial after hearings in Youngstown.

Federal authorities have 30 days after an arrest to bring an indictment.

Charged Tuesday were Sam Mullet, his sons Johnny, Daniel and Lester, along with Levi Miller, Eli Miller, Emanuel Shrock, Linda Shrock, Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Anna Miller and Freeman Burkholder.

All of those charged except Levi Miller, a minister, are related in some way to Sam Mullet, father of 18 children and leader of the Amish community in Bergholz, Jefferson County.

Eli, Lester and Raymond Miller are Sam Mullet's nephews. Anna Miller is married to another of Sam Mullet's nephews, and Mr. Burkholder is married to one of his nieces. Linda Shrock, who is married to Emanuel, is one of Sam Mullet's daughters.

The indictment described five attacks that occurred from September through November in several Ohio counties.

Prosecutors said the assaults were the result of a religious dispute between Sam Mullet and other Amish leaders over the way he ran his church.

The indictment said the defendants, under Sam Mullet's direction, executed a series of break-ins and cut the victims' beards and hair. A man's beard is a religious symbol in the Amish community.

The indictment also said Sam Mullet, as the bishop of Bergholz, controlled the community and "encouraged" corporal punishment and self-deprivation among his followers as a means for them to show their loyalty to him and the church.

The grand jury also said Sam Mullet "misappropriated" the wives of other members of his community and "counseled" them on how to be sexually satisfied in their marriages. Part of the counseling involved them leaving their husbands and children, moving into his house and having sex with him.

"The women who disobeyed or resisted this practice were ostracized from the community," the indictment said. The two women indicted had not been previously charged, but the indictment said both participated in attacks.

The grand jury said Anna Miller helped some of the men during an assault on Sept. 6. Linda Shrock is charged with forcibly restraining her mother-in-law on Nov. 9 while her husband, Emanuel, attacked his own father.

The indictment also charged Sam Mullet, Levi Miller, Lester Mullet and Lester Miller with concealing or trying to conceal evidence, including a camera, photos of the assaults, and an over-the-counter medication allegedly placed in the drink of one of the assault victims.

Under federal law, the defendants are facing potential life terms in prison.

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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