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Published: Friday, 2/10/2012

Lawyer: Amish sect's bishop is no menace

Man's release from custody sought before trial


CLEVELAND -- The lawyer for jailed Amish sect bishop Sam Mullet says the Justice Department tries to portray his client as a "mysterious cult leader with supernatural powers" but can't back up assertions that he's too menacing to be released from custody.

Ed Bryan, Mr. Mullet's public defender, argued in a filing with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week that the government has not produced evidence that Mr. Mullet, 66, represents a threat to the Amish world.

Mr. Bryan is appealing an order of detention by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland.

The Justice Department and Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said Mr. Mullet was directly responsible for orchestrating five beard-cutting attacks on other Amish last year that roiled the normally peaceful community and made international headlines.

But Mr. Bryan said the sheriff and the FBI, who put together the case that led to the indictment of Mr. Mullet and 11 others on hate-crimes charges, have over-reached in trying to convince the court Mr. Mullet is a violent doomsday cultist.

"[Judge Polster] relied on hysteria, speculation, and innuendo to find future risk of attack in the Amish community," he wrote in his appeal.

He said Mr. Mullet, a father of 16 who runs his church in Bergholz, Jefferson County, Ohio, was not responsible for any of the beard-cuttings.

Rather, he said, the attacks were carried out by his children and followers for various personal reasons.

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

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