Judge denies new trial in Ohio Amish hair attacks

3:31 PM, Dec 6, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND  --  A judge in Cleveland has rejected a request for a new trial made by the leader of an Amish group convicted in hair-cutting attacks on members of his own faith.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster on Thursday also declined to overturn the convictions of Samuel Mullet Sr. and his followers who joined the appeal.

A jury in the fall convicted Mullet and 15 other Amish men and women of hate crimes for a series of hair- and beard- cutting attacks stemming from a religious dispute.

Mullet's attorney had argued that newly discovered evidence that included notes from an Associated Press reporter's interview with Mullet should allow him another trial.

But the judge wrote that the evidence was not new and could have been sought before the trial began.

In his opinion, Polster wrote the following:

"...Defendant's motion boils down to three arguments: the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain a conviction; newly discovered evidence warrants a new trial; and the admission of certain pieces of evidence - namely an Associated Press article and evidence of Defendant's sexual relationship with one of his daughters-in-law - constituted a miscarriage of justice."

"While it is true Defendant did not physically participate in any of the attacks, there was extensive evidence showing he was a member of the conspiracy the object of which was to commit them."

"....the evidence at trial conclusively established that Defendant, as Bishop of Bergholz, ran his community with an iron fist-nothing of significance happened without his knowledge and approval. Even if the Government proved nothing more than that Samuel Mullet, Sr., was told about the attacks in advance by his followers and then said or did nothing to stop or prevent them, or even voice his disapproval, a jury could conclude that he had joined the conspiracy and that he had...liability for the acts of his coconspirators."

"Defendant argues a miscarriage of justice resulted from the admission of two pieces of evidence: the Associated Press article; and evidence of Defendant's sexual relationship with one of his daughters-in-law."

"...Defendant insists the Associated Press article was inadmissible hearsay that should have been excluded. Yet Defendant did not raise this objection at trial. (9/12/12 Tr., pp. 133-34.). In fact, at trial, when the Court asked if there was any objection to the Associated Press report, defense counsel was silent. (Id. at p. 302). To be sure, before trial, Defendant made a motion in limine to exclude Defendant's statements to the media on the grounds that they were hearsay."

"...Defendant renews his objection, which he timely made at trial, to the testimony of Nancy Mullet, his daughter-in-law, describing their sexual relationship. He thinks the testimony was both improper character evidence and unfairly prejudicial. The Court admitted the testimony because it showed the extent of Defendant's control over the members of his community, which was directly relevant to counter his defense that he had nothing to do with any of the attacks. Mullet, Sr., argues that what happened between him and his daughter-in-law, in 2008, was too remote in time to have any connection to the attacks, which took place in the fall of 2011. To the contrary, there was evidence that Mullet, Sr., continued having affairs with married congregants up to and including the time of the attacks in the fall of 2011."

"...when, in the early-morning hours of November 23, 2011, federal law enforcement officers arrived to execute a search warrant at the home of Mullet, Sr., they found Defendant Lovina Miller, wife of Defendant Eli Miller, together with Mullet, Sr., in his bedroom and partially undressed. In fact, there was testimony that Lovina Miller had been living with Mullet, Sr., for some time. The evidence of Samuel Mullet, Sr.'s sexual relationships with married congregants directly tied into the religious motivation for the attacks. Several witnesses testified that his family members-his sister, Barbara Miller, in particular-criticized him for his sexual conduct with married women in the community."

"Defendant next argues that a new trial should be granted because of newly discovered evidence. The supposedly new evidence is the Associated Press reporter's notes and tape recording of the interview he conducted with Defendant on October 10, 2011, which formed the basis of the reporter's article, a redacted version of which was admitted in evidence. But this evidence is not new. Defendant has known since October 10, 2011, what he said to the reporter. And he presumably would have seen the reporter taking notes and would have noticed a tape recorder. He could have sought to obtain the notes and recording via a subpoena duces tecum before or during trial."

"...to succeed on a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, a defendant must show, among other things, that the new evidence was discovered after trial and could not have been discovered earlier with due diligence. Moreover, Mullet, Sr., has not even made a representation, let alone a showing, of what the evidence would demonstrate. No one has seen the notes or the recording, and Mullet, Sr...has not asserted that the notes or recording reflect any material difference from the evidence produced at trial. Accordingly, there is no reason to think the newly discovered evidence would likely produce an acquittal...",

"...there was substantial evidence that Samuel Mullet, Sr., did more than tacitly approve of the attacks; he affirmatively encouraged, aided, and agreed with his coconspirators to commit them. The jury also could have construed as admission of his involvement in the attacks Mullet, Sr.'s statements to the media and to his co-defendants over the phone while they were in jail. It was the jury's prerogative to reject the explanation and characterization of the evidence that counsel makes in his motion and reply, and which he made at trial. Since a jury's verdict is presumptively valid and the evidence against Defendant was strong, the Court denies Defendant's motion based on insufficient evidence."

The Associated Press/WKYC-TV

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