Sixteen people were resentenced today for crimes arising out of a series of assaults on practitioners of the Amish religion announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony of the FBI Cleveland Office.
The defendants all reside in Bergholz, Ohio, unless otherwise noted. Samuel Mullet, 69, received a prison sentence of 129 months. Johnny S. Mullet, 41; Lester Mullet, 30, of Hammondsville, Ohio; Levi F. Miller, 56; and Eli M. Miller, 35, received 60 months. Daniel S. Mullet, 40; Lester Miller, 40; and Emanuel Schrock, 46, received 43 months. Raymond Miller, 30, of Irondale, Ohio; Linda Shrock, 47; Freeman Burkholder, 34, of Irondale; Anna Miller, 35; Elizabeth A. Miller, 40, of Irondale; Emma J. Miller, 40; Kathryn Miller, 25, of Irondale; and Lovina Miller, 35, all of whom had already completed previously-imposed prison sentences, received time served.
A jury found the defendants guilty in 2012 following a lengthy trial. All of the defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Eli Miller, Lester Mullet, and Levi Miller were also found guilty of concealing evidence. Samuel Mulllet Sr., was convicted of concealing evidence and making false statements to federal investigators. The convictions stem from five separate assaults that occurred in four Ohio counties between September and November 2011 and from the defendants’ efforts to conceal a camera and photographs that documented the assaults The photographs depicted some of the defendants in the act of assaulting one of the victims and depicted the injuries and humiliation of others. The defendants intended to use the photographs to show other members of the community what they had done to the victims.
All of the defendants were also convicted of conspiracy to violate the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which prohibits any person from willfully causing bodily injury to any person—or attempting to do so by use of a dangerous weapon—because of the actual or perceived religion of that person, as well as for obstruction of justice by witness tampering and the destruction or concealment of evidence.
The jury also convicted various groups of defendants with separate assaults.
The appeals court subsequently overturned the conspiracy to violate the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, as well as the convictions for the separate assaults, citing an incorrect jury instruction. The other convictions were not affected by the appeals court decision.
Samuel Mullet Sr. was the Bishop of the Amish community in Bergholz, while the remaining defendants are all members of that community. Mullet Sr. exerted control over the Bergholz community by taking the wives of other men into his home, and by overseeing various means of disciplining community members, including corporal punishment, according to trial testimony.
The assaults all entailed using scissors and battery-powered clippers to forcibly cut or shave the beard hair of the male victims and the head hair of the female victims. During each assault, the defendants restrained and held down the victims. During some of the assaults, the defendants injured individuals who attempted to intervene to protect or rescue the victims. Following the attacks, some of the defendants participated in discussions about concealing photographs and other evidence of the assaults, according to evidence presented at trial. At today’s hearing, the District Court judge found that the assaults were motivated by religion and the defendants’ obstruction was aimed at preventing law enforcement investigators from discovering the true nature the assaults.
“The Justice Department will always fight to hold accountable those who commit religiously-motivated hate crimes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “We hope that the prosecution of those responsible for the assaults and the obstruction in this case will help bring closure to those affected by these intolerable crimes.”
“From day one, this case has been about the rule of law and defending the right of people to worship in peace,” said U.S. Attorney Dettelbach. “This was never about ‘haircuts.’ These were violent, religiously motivated home invasions that left the victims bloody, bruised and beaten. These defendants struck at two of our nation’s bedrock principles – freedom of religion and the sanctity of the court system.”
This case was investigated by the Cleveland Division of the FBI and was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Kristy Parker of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Getz and Bridget M. Brennan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. The prosecutor’s and sheriff’s offices from Holmes, Carroll, Jefferson and Trumbull counties also provided significant assistance in the investigation and prosecution of this case.