CLEVELAND -- A judge has sentenced the leader of a breakaway Amish sect to 15 years in prison in connection with a series of violent home invasions in which the beards and hair of fellow Amish were brutally cut off.
Prior to sentencing, U.S. District Judge Daniel Polster said of Samuel Mullet Sr., "You deserve the longest and harshest sentence...you ran the Bergholz community with an iron hand....sadly, I consider you a danger to the community.....I think a sentence of life in prison is longer than necessary so I am imposing a sentence of 15 years."
Mullet's attorney had described in court that a sentence of 15 years would effectively be a life sentence for the 67-year-old.
The remainder of the 15 defendants -- all members of Mullet's extended family -- were sentenced to between 1 and 7 years in prison for their role in the attacks.
Polster deferred the prison sentences for some of the female Amish defendants until their husbands complete their prison terms. "I am trying to minimize the number of children who would have no supervision," he said.
Polster did not impose any fines on the defendants. All 16 have the right to appeal their sentences.
In a news conference following the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach welcomed the sentences and noted that Polster chose to give every single defendant time behind bars.
"It properly sends the message that religious freedom is one of the most important freedoms we possess in this nation and those that trample on others' religious freedom trample our Constitution," said Dettelbach.
Dettelbach praised the judge for recognizing the attacks for what they were...."Hate filled acts designed to terrorize our community."
Holmes County Prosecutor Steve Knowling said the sentences will bring a sense of relief to the Amish community there which had lived in fear of Mullet and his Bergholz clan.
He referred to Mullet and his family and their actions as "religous thugs, religious terrorism. It's nothing less, nothing more."
Here are the sentences for the other defendants:
- Johnny Mullet: 7 years
- Daniel Mullet: 5 years
- Lester Mullet: 5 years
- Levi Miller: 7 years
- Eli Miller: 7 years
- Emanuel Schrock: 5 years
- Lester Miller: 7 years
- Raymond Miller: 2 years
- Freeman Burkholder: 1 year +1 day
- Anna Miller: 1 year +1 day
- Linda Schrock: 2 years
- Lovina Miller: 1 year +1 day
- Emma Miller: 1 year +1 day
- Elizabeth Miller: 1 year +1 day
- Kathryn Miller: 1 year +1 day
The sentencing came after more than four hours in court, during which the Assistant U.S. Attorneys and the defendants had the chance to address the court.
Samuel Mullet Sr. asked the court to give him the sentences for the rest of his family so that they could be allowed to return to their farms and raise their children.
His sons echoed his sentiment and asked the judge that they be allowed to serve the time for Mullet Sr.
When asked about that, U.S. Attorney Dettelbach said, "It's just proof of what we said all along. Mr. Mullet is a cult leader. Mr. Mullet is a thug. Mr. Mullet is a bully. And Mr. Mullet belongs where criminals belong -- in federal prison."
On Sept. 20, 2012, a jury in Cleveland convicted all 16 defendants in a federal hate crimes trial. After a three-week trial, the jury reached its decision after deliberating just over 32 hours over five days.
The 16 members of the "Bergholz clan" were all convicted of conspiracy for participating in some manner in the attacks, which was compared to animals being shorn.
Hair and beards have enormous religious symbolism for the Amish.
Because there are no cameras allowed in federal court, below is a look at the running excerpts from what was said in court by Assistant U.S. attorneys, defense counsels and the defendants prior to today's sentencing.
1:15 p.m.: U.S. District Judge Daniel Polster: "Now, it's my turn."
1:12 p.m.: U.S. Attorney Bridget Brennan continues: "....the attacks didn't stop when (others) were arrested, they stopped when Sam Mullet was arrested Nov. 23, 2011....these attacks were never just about hair, they were about religion....the arrests on Nov. 23, 2011 of the other three men, in those arrests, they did not comply with law enforcement, they barricaded themselves in the Schrock house and had to be extricated....."
1 p.m.: Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan in rebuttal: "This case is really about home invasions, rousting them out of their beds, rousting them out of their home...they were carefully laid plans, every single time to strike fear into the hearts of the entire Amish community in Bergholz and across the country...it doesn't matter where you live...everybody in this country has to abide by the laws...and not lie to the FBI...even Sam Mullet...the proven liar in this case is Sam Mullet...we have tried very carefully to craft a range of culpability...and at the same time, promore respect for the law...they are convicted kidnappers...all these defendants went to trial...there is only one defendant who doesn't deserve a sentence lower than the (maximum)...the life term (for him) is consistent with the statue and guidelines..."
12:33 p.m.: Court recesses for 15 minutes. Assistant U.S. Attorneys will have their chance to address court after break.
12:32 p.m.: Elizabeth Miller, 38, has 11 children with her husband Lester, speaks: "I also want to apologize, for all the pain and grief I have caused."
12:28 p.m.: Lovina Miller speaks: "I am sorry for what I did. I will take my own punishment."
Kathryn Miller, 24, wife of defendant Raymond Miller, speaks: "I just want to apologize for what I did. I want to take my punishment...I want to thank you for letting me stay with my children."
Emma Miller, 39, has 9 children, speaks: "I just want to apologize and I am sorry."
12:01 p.m.: Linda Schrock: "I don't have a lot to say. I am sorry I did what I did to my mother-in-law, she can live, I will do her no harm no more."
Freeman Burkholder (his wife Nancy is expecting their ninth child): "I don't have much to say...I didn't realize this was going to be like this, sorry for any grief that we have caused. I won't do it again."
11:41 a.m.: Emanuel Schrock: "I guess I don't know what to say....I am the only son-in-law of Samuel Mullet and I think it's unfair that he has to be punished for what I did so I would like to take his sentence...and my wife's sentence, I would like you to give me her sentence too....."........(He is married to Linda Schrock, Samuel Mullet's daughter)
Lester Miller speaks: "First of all, I'd like to apologize to my parents...I didn't want to hurt you, I just wanted to help you.....I have 11 children at home, my youngest daughter is not yet 2...have mercy on my wife, put her sentence on me...as for Sam Mullet, I would consider it an honor of I could serve some of his sentence...that's all I have to say."
Raymond Miller speaks: "I guess I also didn't realize the seriousness and I'd like to apologize and also to my parents...my wife is also indicted...I would gladly carry her sentence..she would not have been there if it had not been for me..."
11:27 a.m.: Eli Miller speaks...."I don't know what I can say...I'm scared...never dreamed it would end up like this...it will never happen again...talked to my lawyer, talked to other inmates, they told me you were a good sentencing judge, my wife's sittin' over there...if you could give me her sentence, so she can go home with the children, I would appreciate it...I'm sorry for what I did..."
11:21 a.m.: Lester Mullet, 38, is married and they have four young sons....Lester was arrested Nov. 23, 2011....he is Samuel Mullet Sr.'s youngest son...
Lester speaks: "(crying) I don't know what to tell you...it will never happen again...if you want to give them time, put it on me....my dreams are all undone...."
Levi Miller, 55, has been incarcerated for 14 months (his attorney is Neal Atway) Atway says Levi just wants to be with his children and grandchildren.
Levi Miller speaks: "(crying) I've known him (Sam Mullet) for 25 years....Sam Mullet comes up with the decisions but he doesn't make it by himself...I'm sorry....."
Levi Miller: "...I don't know what to say as opposed to...Sam Mullet, first time I ever met him, he read off that's he's a man that lives...we had talked back and forth. "The Bergholz Cult" That's a lie. He comes up with the decisions, but he doesn't make it all by himself. All the church members, we I have no intention to ever cut hair again, I'm sorry."
11:06 a.m.: Daniel Mullet "I want to take the blame for what I did I guess. ...for cutting hair, I guess..."
11:02 a.m.: Court back in session. Attorney for Daniel Mullet speaking.
10:45 a.m.: Court takes 15-minute recess
10:40 a.m.: Johnny Mullet speaking in court: "I'll take my sentencing, but if he was [Sam Mullet] ....I couldn't take that. He's not the man that the government's putting out...(Pause) "I would like to say, give me a life sentence, send him [Sam Mullet] home, I'll take the blame."
10:33 a.m: Samuell Mullet Sr. is now speaking on his own behalf..."I am being blamed for being a cult leader....I am not going to be here much longer...my goal in life is to help the younger people...if somebody needs to be punished, I'll take the punishment for everybody....let these mothers and fathers go home to their children"
"I'm not taking the farm with me. I'm not going to be here much longer. My goal in life has been to help people that are the underdog, to help people who are frowned on, mocked....."
"Let these dads and moms go home to their families, raise their children, I'll take the punishment for everybody. There's a lot more things I could say, but everything I say is twisted and turned."
10:30 a.m.: Bryan has now spoken for 40 minutes and has concluded...he wants a sentence "sufficient but not greater than necessary..." and that does not mean a life sentence....
10:04 a.m.: Judge Daniel Polster admonishes attorney Edward Bryan for going "far afield" of what he is supposed to address. Polster said Bryan should focus on "whether or not your client (Samuel Mullet Sr) is a danger to the community if he is out on the streets".....
Samuel Mullet Sr is the only one facing a Tier 1 life sentence...
9:50 a.m.: Judge Daniel Polster is allowing each defense counsel to make a statement on behalf of their client and each defendant can also speak if they wish; then the prosecutors can make a statement...they have started with attorney Edward Bryan, attorney for Samuel Mullet Sr
9:47 a.m.: Judge is allowing limited objections by the defense attorneys to the levels of sentencing....Polster allowing SHORT objections...prosecutors allowed short rebuttal
9:09 a.m.: Court gets underway in Cleveland