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Keep Amish sect leader jailed, prosecutors urge

Attorney seeks electronic monitoring at home

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Amish sect leader Sam Mullet is jailed awaiting a March trial on hate crimes.

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CLEVELAND -- Federal prosecutors in Cleveland say Amish sect leader Sam Mullet should not be let out of jail under any circumstances pending his trial in March on hate crimes charges after a series of beard-cutting attacks against other Amish in Ohio.

Mr. Mullet, 66, bishop of Bergholz in Jefferson County, Ohio, has been jailed since Nov. 23, when the FBI raided his compound and rounded him up with six of his sons and followers.

Since then he's tried repeatedly to get released, but each time the Justice Department has argued that he is a danger to society, citing the violence of the attacks, Mr. Mullet's absolute control over his community, and the death threats prosecutors say he made against some of his own children and Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.

Mr. Mullet's public defender, Ed Bryan, said this week that his client can be electronically monitored at home by U.S. Pretrial Services if allowed to connect his house to the power grid. While the common perception is that Amish shun electricity, Mr. Bryan said they don't. They only avoid the "negative influence and temptation" of modern appliances, he said but noted that Mr. Mullet uses an electric generator to power his tools.

If Mr. Mullet is allowed to install power lines, Mr. Bryan said, he can be released from jail on electronic monitoring like many other defendants.

But Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Getz said even if Mr. Mullet does connect to the power grid, monitoring will alert authorities only if he leaves the area. If that happens, he said, law enforcement faces the prospect of having to go get him and risk a confrontation with a man the government calls a cult leader with a "penchant for violence."

Mr. Mullet has also asked that he be released because he's needed at home to tend to his house and farm. In particular, he said, his house has wood-burning stoves rather than central heating and requires someone to continually feed the stoves.

But Mr. Getz said he wasn't buying that gambit. He said Mr. Mullet has 16 children, only some of whom are in jail, and scores of grandchildren at his compound who can tend to that task. Many have appeared in court proceedings, he said, and the judge can render his own opinion "as to the apparent ability of these individuals to gather firewood."

Mr. Mullet and 11 followers are under indictment and could get lengthy prison terms if convicted. U.S. District Judge Dan A. Polster has released four of them on bond pending trial.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Torsten Ove is a reporter at the Post-Gazette.

Contact Torsten Ove at: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.

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