FBI Arrests Members of the ‘Amish Taliban’
BERGHOLZ, Ohio (AP) — Authorities raided the compound of a breakaway Amish group on Wednesday morning and arrested seven men on federal hate crime charges in hair-cutting attacks against Amish men and women.
Among those arrested were the group’s leader, Sam Mullet, and three of his sons, said Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
Several members of the group carried out the attacks in September and October by forcefully cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women, authorities have said. Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.
The attacks struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. They strongly believe that they must be forgiving in order for God to forgive them, which often means handing out their own punishment and not reporting crimes to law enforcement.
Mullet told The Associated Press in October that he didn’t order the hair-cutting but didn’t stop his sons and others from carrying it out. He said the goal of the hair-cutting was to send a message to Amish that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community.
“They changed the rulings of our church here, and they’re trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we’re not going to do that,” Mullet said.
Seven men were in custody and expected to be arraigned Wednesday. They include Mullet; his sons Johnny, Lester and Daniel; Levi Miller; Eli Miller; and Emanuel Schrock. The charges carry a penalty of up 10 years in prison.
The men were sleeping when the FBI and local police showed up at their homes before dawn Wednesday, Sheriff Fred Abdalla said. Three men initially refused to come out of their rooms, but all seven were arrested without incident, he said.
Authorities were holding a news conference Wednesday afternoon to explain why they charged the men with hate crimes.
The attacks came amid long-simmering tension between Mullet’s group, which he established in 1995, and Amish bishops. Arlene Miller, the wife of one victim, said several bishops hadn’t condoned Mullet’s decision to excommunicate several members who previously left his community, saying there was no spiritual justification for his action.
One of Mullet’s daughters-in-law and a former brother-in-law told investigators that Mullet controls everything that happens within the community outside Bergholz and that he allowed others to beat members of the group who disobeyed him, according to an affidavit filed in federal court Wednesday.
Mullet punished some by making them sleep in a chicken coop for days and was sexually intimate with married women in the community so that he could “cleanse them of the devil,” the two said in the affidavit.
Both said they left the community because they did not want to live under Mullet’s control.