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Published: 5/2/2012

Amish sect leader to stay in jail until trial

BY TORSTEN OVE
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
Sam Mullet Sr., the leader of a breakaway Amish group. Sam Mullet Sr., the leader of a breakaway Amish group.
AP Enlarge

CLEVELAND -- Jailed Amish leader Sam Mullet is out of options after two legal decisions denying his bid for freedom pending trial on federal hate crime charges.

A federal judge in Cleveland and a federal appellate court in Cincinnati both ruled Monday that Mr. Mullet, charged in a series of beard-chopping attacks against Amish, will stay jailed before his trial in August.

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge Dan Polster did not err in January when he decided to keep Mr. Mullet behind bars.

Judge Polster also rejected an attempt by Mr. Mullet to be released on the grounds that he has acquired $2 million from oil and gas leases on his farm and has the money to post a substantial bond or pledge his debt-free property to secure release.

Mr. Mullet, 66, and 15 followers, almost all related to him by blood or marriage, are charged under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act with attacking other Amish, lying to agents, and destroying evidence. His public defender, Ed Bryan, had appealed the judge's order, saying the evidence does not favor detention, that Mr. Mullet is not a threat, and that he has strong ties to the Amish community and so is not a risk to flee.

The three-judge appellate panel ruled otherwise, writing the evidence shows he had prior knowledge of the attacks and gave media interviews defending the assaults.

The judges said he has violated court orders, threatened the Jefferson County sheriff's life, and exerted such control over his community in Bergholz, Jefferson County, that members have refused to talk to the FBI until he gives permission.

While Mr. Mullet has said he is not a danger to anyone, the judges disagreed. "Mullet's own community has nothing to fear from him," they wrote. "Rather, it is those who have previously crossed paths with Mullet that do. By his own admission to the media, he could have stopped the attacks but he did not. He further admitted that the attacks were in retaliation for other community members' failure to adhere to his decisions, and he claimed he should be permitted to punish these people. And while Mullet may interpret the evidence differently, there is evidence that he orchestrated or participated in the offenses."

In Monday's other ruling, Judge Polster said Mr. Mullet's new wealth doesn't alleviate concerns about his release, so he denied the request. The judge said the money means Mr. Mullet can pay for his defense. He had been paying a discounted rate of $125 an hour for Mr. Bryan, but the Justice Department argued that a man with $2 million should not enjoy a taxpayer-subsidized defense.

The judge agreed and ordered Mr. Mullet to hire a private lawyer or start paying $250 an hour for Mr. Bryan's services, starting Tuesday.

Mr. Mullet has been jailed since November. The U.S. Marshals Service has held him in isolation.

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

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



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