Cleveland: Amish trial jury resumes deliberations

12:56 PM, Sep 14, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- After deliberating for eight hours Thursday, the seven-man, five-woman jury begins Day Two of deliberations in the trial of 16 Amish defendants at 9 a.m. Friday.

The jury continued deliberations through lunch, which was delivered to the jury room.

All 16 defendants are accused of conspiracy in a total of five attacks on nine fellow Amish between September and November last year.

Various defendants, including Bergholz clan leader Samuel Mullet Sr., are accused of federal hate crimes for cutting off the hair of two Amish women and the beards and hair of seven Amish men in those attacks.

Mullet Sr., 66, who is also accused of lying to the FBI and destroying evidence, is the head of the breakaway Amish group of about 21 families who live on Mullet's 880-acre farm in Bergholz, located about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland in Jefferson County.

Federal prosecutors allege that Mullet Sr. encouraged members of his clan -- nine men and six women -- to punish the victims by cutting off their hair and beards.

In the Amish religion, men do not cut their hair or beards after they marry and Amish women do not cut their hair after they are married. The cutting was allegedly done to disgrace and humiliate the victims.

Each of the defendants have their own federal public defenders and those attorneys maintain that the "attacks" were nothing more than family feuds, not hate crimes.

During the trial, U.S. Attorneys presented WKYC-TV footage of Reporter Dick Russ interviewing Mullet on Oct. 9, after three of the five attacks had taken place. WKYC was the only TV station who interviewed Mullet.

In the interview, Russ confronted Mullet on his 880-acre farm in Bergholz while he sat atop a bulldozer.

Watch the interview

In the interview, Mullet denies having anything to do with the attacks but admits hearing about them and speculates on why they occured.

"It's because of members being excommunicated," Mullet tells Russ.

"From what we hear, it's my daughter's ex-husband and his family. They're being excommunicated where they're at, so I don't know what the deal is there."

Mullet says his strict religious ways have made him the object of suspicion for years.

"They've been after me since what, 2003, trying to put me in jail or in a mental institution," he said, and acknowledged a long-standing feud with Jefferson County sheriff Fred Abdallah.

Abdallah has been quoted as saying that Mullet threatened his life several times, while some other Amish have said that Mullet's mostly family community is a "cult."

Mullet Sr. has not been charged with any sex-related crimes but testimony about his "sexual counseling" of the wives of Amish men in Bergholz was introduced at trial

Before the trial began, defense attorneys lost the battle to keep Mullet's "sexual counseling of women" out of the trial.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Polster said prosecutors are allowed to question witnesses about Mullet's sexual activities with married women.

Prosecutors alleged that Mullet "misappropriated the wives of other members of the Community and 'counseled' them on how to be sexually satisfied in their marriages. To this end, the women were expected to leave their husbands and children and live in Mullet, Sr.'s, house where they were further expected to be sexually intimate with him. The women who disobeyed or resisted this practice were ostracized from the Community."

Prosecutors did have one of the women testify, the same woman who was found in Mullet's bedroom the night he was arrested.

Prosecutors say Mullet used the sexual counseling sessions to control his flock, and that led to disagreements by his followers which provided the motivation behind the hair-cutting assaults.


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