Prosecution seeks to keep Amish sect leader jailed
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The Justice Department has asked a federal appellate court to keep Amish sect leader Sam Mullet behind bars, saying he arranged a series of beard-cutting attacks on other Amish in Ohio, concealed evidence from law enforcement and maintains "unquestionable" control over his followers, almost all of whom are related to him.
In a brief filed with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, federal prosecutors said two previous hearings have shown that Mr. Mullet, 66, the bishop of Bergholz in Jefferson County, "poses a serious risk of danger to others and the community."
His public defender, Ed Bryan, is appealing a detention order by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. Judge Polster's decision supported an earlier detention order by a federal magistrate in Youngstown.
Both judges relied on testimony from the FBI and Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, who said he has talked to many former Bergholz members who say Mr. Mullet exercises complete control there, including sleeping with men's wives to "counsel" them in sexual matters.
In his filing with the higher court, Mr. Bryan said the Justice Department was portraying Mr. Mullet as a "mysterious cult leader with supernatural powers" but could not back up its assertions that he is dangerous or won't show up for future court proceedings.
Mr. Bryan said Sheriff Abdalla and the FBI over-reached in trying to convince Judge Polster that Mr. Mullet is a violent doomsday cultist.
"[Judge Polster] relied on hysteria, speculation and innuendo to find future risk of attack in the Amish community," he wrote.
He said Mr. Mullet, a father of 16, was not responsible for any of the beard-cuttings. Rather, he said, the attacks were carried out by his children, nephews, nieces and other followers for various personal reasons.
In a Sept. 6 attack, for example, Levi Millar and his siblings assaulted their father in retaliation for prior sexual and physical abuse at his hands, Mr. Bryan said, not because Mr. Mullet ordered them to do it.
Mr. Bryan said statements to the contrary, as well as descriptions of Mr. Mullet as a Jim Jones-style cult leader, were given by people who have an "ax to grind" because they didn't like how Mr. Mullet ran his community.
While conceding that Mr. Mullet was not present during the attacks, federal prosecutors said he was calling the shots.
They also said he needs to stay locked up, in a separate facility from the other defendants, because of his influence in the community and the potential for violence if U.S. marshals are forced to go to Bergholz to re-arrest him should he violate the terms of any release order.
The trial is set for March 19.
First Published February 15, 2012 12:00 am