From the AP story on the last community meeting in Bergholz, before five more enter prison Friday:
Martha Mullet said she believes the government is trying to split up the community, but members are determined to ensure the survival of the breakaway group her husband founded.
Those who were attacked allege he led in authoritarian style, and at least one person described it as a cult where members’ “minds were programmed in the wrong way by Sam Mullet.”
Mullet’s family denounces that description. Such communities typically limit interaction with news media, but members of Mullet’s group in Bergholz said they were willing to talk because they feel they’ve been treated unfairly by the justice system.
Prosecutors brought hate crime charges because they said they believed the attacks were spurred by religious differences.
The defendants don’t deny the hair-cuttings — some say they regret what happened, others don’t — but contend they stemmed from family disputes that should have been handled internally. They say they’re bound by different rules guided by their religion, that the government had no business getting involved in what they did and that calling it a hate crime was overreaching.
“We’re not exactly saying it was wrong, and we don’t say it’s right, either. … It’s something that will never happen again, I can tell you that,” Wilma Mullet, a daughter of Sam Mullet. She was not among those charged.
Nine from the Bergholz community are already behind bars. Sam Mullet and others imprisoned recently claimed cruel and unusual punishment, due to their being held in prisons spread across the country, and asked to be released pending appeal.