Amish Brothers Escape Jail Time In Abuse Case

This is a really ugly story which has been making its way around the web the past few days. I take no joy in covering this but it is an “Amish” story, and one that is getting attention for reasons which raise questions about equal treatment.

Two adult brothers plead guilty to molesting their minor-age sister in the Seymour, Missouri Amish community. Here’s a summary of the situation via the Webster County Citizen:

Two Amish brothers, 22-year-old Aaron C.M. Schwartzand 18-year-old Petie C.M. Schwartz, plead guilty last week to two counts of third-degree child molestation with a child under the age of 14, a Class C felony, in connection with events last year and earlier this year when they and two of their younger brothers, both minors, engaged in sexual relations with their younger sister, who was only 12 and13 years old at the time of the alleged sexual acts.

Trial in the case was set for last Tuesday, Sept. 8, but prior to court proceedings, a plea agreement between the two brothers, their legal counsel, Springfield attorney Will Worsham, and Webster County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Berkstresser was reached, where the brothers received a 10-year sentence in the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) on the first count and a five-year DOC sentence on the second count, with a suspended execution of sentence on both counts, meaning neither brother will initially serve time in a state prison.

The brothers will need to complete some requirements including writing a letter, community service, and paying some nominal fees, and will be on probation for five years and the sex offender’s list for life. But as long as they complete their sex offender program, they have escaped doing hard time.

In justifying the deal, Berkstresser explained that “these two boys are very immature relative to their respective ages. Maturity wise, they are much younger than their age.” If sent to prison, he stated that “These two young men would’ve been eaten alive in the state prison system.”

He also saw this case differently based on the relationship:

“In the end, this wasn’t a case of a parent and child, where a parent in a position of authority sexually abused or exploited their child,” he said. “This was a situation where four siblings engaged in acts with their sister. I offered a 15-year prison sentence based on this … it was a different relationship.”

Berkstresser acknowledged he would likely be criticized for the deal, but said that “Previously, I’ve been very harsh on the Amish when they’ve been charged with crimes of this nature,” citing a case where he sent a father to prison for similar crimes.

What about the Amish community? Berkstresser describes a group in Seymour which sees itself as separate from consequences in a worldly English system:

“But within the Amish community that primarily lives in the Seymour area, (the Amish) don’t see the authority we have to do anything to them. This was a tough case to prosecute.

The Amish community was cooperative yet upset.

They made it clear to me that they had punished all four of the boys for their actions, and they made it clear that this punishment was very severe.”

Complicating the case further, the abused girl just had a baby, fathered by one of her brothers.

It appears that the legal parties involved have taken background circumstances into account. The prosecuting attorney however seems to suggest that it is not the boys’ Amish background that influenced the agreement, as much as their maturity level. Others argue that this is in fact preferential treatment based on religion.

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    18 Comments

    1. Jail time

      They should be punished by putting them into a mental hospital and get help

    2. Andrea Woodard

      They should be punished for what they did, this so called punishment won’t stop others from doing the same thing. Doesn’t matter what their maturity is, they did wrong and need to be punished.

    3. Al

      We see this all the time. Amish are given much more leniency for crimes that would put others in prison for years. This includes child and spouse abuse, and even murder. It seems like the courts do not want to give the Amish a bad name and hurt tourism.

    4. Jane S.

      I used to think highly of the Amish, but over the years have come to see them as not different than society in general and other strict religious group; they aren’t “better” or “more moral” and they don’t necessarily have more integrity that society at large. I do however object to the fact that they appear to be getting given preferential treatment by the courts. When sentencing guidelines were enacted years ago, it eliminated “subjective sentencing” which is what seems to be going on here.

      The parents should have been charged as well as the 2 brothers and all the children put in foster homes to ensure their safety. This would have been done in heartbeat in my state.

      I hope this story serves to educate he public and perhaps puts this religious community into perspective.

      1. Dee Armenta

        Really!!

        You don’t think these things happen in non Amish homes.. Taking the Children away from their Parents is a lot worse for them.. Foster homes aren’t always the best for them either.. a lot of Foster Homes are worse than the Children’s own home.. and who’s to say the Parents at fault.. they raised their children right.. things happen like this in privacy not where the Parents would see or know about it.. and usually it’s 4th or 5th cousin interbreeding which has been proven that it’s not blood any more.. and why do you think we have so many mentally challenged children in Non Amish homes.. it’s not due to interbreeding..What the boys did was not good at all but it happens a lot and for many years with non Amish Young men or Teen boys getting away with it.. even non Amish Uncles have gotten away with it and their not Mentally Challenged and they know better to.. but they still did and do, do it to this day.. and non Amish Mentally challenged ones don’t get put in jail so why should the Mentally Challenged Amish ones get thrown in jail.. The Amish young men and younger male siblings were all severely punished in their Sect.. and I guarantee you they are very very strict there.. so if they say they were severely punished, you can believe it. I think their punishment from the Courts was not due to their Religious back ground but to their Mentally Challenges.. I think it’s the complainers that believe Amish should be perfect and not have any sins are the ones who have a problem against the Amish when they don’t feel the same way toward the Non Amish who do it.. Yes they should be punished and they were.

    5. Geo

      Deterrence

      Let’s remember this behavior is not Amish by definition. It happens in other cultures too. That being said, the lack of real punishment provides no deterrent. These men would be at extreme risk from other prisoners, without doubt. Child molesters are famously targets in prison. However, letting them off with a mere spanking sends the wrong signal to anyone tempted to what they did. Provision for their safety should be made while they serve some real punishment time.
      There’s a lingering question of the parents’ responsibility. There may be more questionable leniency here than first meets the eye.

    6. Lorinda Morgan

      I live in Seymour. To think that these brothers will be doing community service in my tiny town is scary. But what is even more scary, is that this girl will receive no justice. She was sent away, without the baby. As if she was the guilty one. No counseling, no thought about her wishes and what she needs. She just lost her family and friends in the process. And if, God forbid, this happens again, she will be too scared to tell, because she will likely be sent to a new community where she has to start over. So sad.

      1. Geo

        Best case

        Even in a best case scenario, assuming the best possible counseling and support for this child, she is damaged beyond imagining. She is torn from the only life she knew, probably losing the child, plus starting life over in a foster home, which may or may not be healing.

    7. Emily

      Inbreedinding

      People must realize that there is a lot of what many of us would consider inbreeding among the Amish. I’m not referring to what the brothers did with their sister. I’m referring to cousins marrying cousins etc. These types of marriages can and do produce offspring with both physical and mental issues. The lack of maturity in this particular situation might have been caused by such a factor . Those brothers were charged with molestation. My question is, was their sister a willing participant in the situation due to her own lack of understanding, due to a learning disorder. Im suggesting that there might be the possibility of a genetic disorder among many of the siblings of that family. And that may be the reason for leniency.

      1. Geo

        Willing participant

        For what it’s worth, a child of that age can not legally be a willing participant in much of anything, let alone sexual intercourse. The legal age of consent in Ohio, as I recall, is 16 years old and intercourse with an individual below the legal age of consent is legally rape.

        1. Emily

          Age of consent

          The legal age of consent does not always apply to minors. I’m wondering what the statutes are in the state where this occured. In my state, tennessee, sex between consenting minors is not considered rape, unless there is more than 4 years difference in age. That may be why the younger siblings were not charged.

    8. alber baker

      amish brothers

      may this young child be wrapped in the arms of an experienced foster care family who with time, tenderness and much professional help will be able to nurture and provide the security that, for far to long, she was deprived of by her family and community. let’s focus our thoughts and prayers on this young girl and her child into the future.

    9. June

      Prayers

      Yes- I think we should offers prayers for this entire family. I’m sure the parents are hurting too. If they never realize the abuse being done. It’s a tragedy for the young lady especially. She has lost so much but hopefully not her faith in God. One day I’m sure the brothers will come to repentance of what they put her thru. But because “we” aren’t there to fully know what started the brothers to even consider doing this to her. God tells us to lift others in prayer. To repent and seek forgiveness. To pray for the weak and hurting. May God help this family to seek help to overcome this chapter in their life. May God especially put His loving arms around her. And may she use her circumstance to reach out to others who have become victims in their society. And I pray one day she will find a true and loving spouse who can help her know her God given value. This family will be in my prayers as I know God will work things thru for her.

    10. Walter Boomsma

      Tough one...

      I am hesitant to comment–this topic has been inflammatory in the past. But I feel compelled to make several observations.

      First, the Amish are not some sort of super beings; they are human beings. While a story like this is tragic and beyond disappointing, it receives attention based largely on what might be considered the “Amish Factor.” I am certain similar stories have been and are being written.

      I am not Amish and therefore angry and instinctively want punishment and “justice.” But I also somewhat understand and admire the Amish mindset of acceptance and forgiveness. The story of the Nickle Mines tragedy is helpful to that point. I wish I could remember the quote that made the point that anger is a punishment we inflict on ourselves.

      That the prosecution and defense have “agreed” on the outcomes would seem to suggest compassion and some degree of balance with forward motion in a time of extreme sadness.

    11. Stephanie Berkey

      I’m deeply saddened about this tragedy, and can appreciate both justice and mercy. The Lord wouldn’t have ever been angry if it was always wrong. He masterfully expressed it over violations of the Holy Temple, which our bodies are also (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

      The most merciful thing to do can be to take these grievous crimes much more seriously, find out the root causes, and do all we can to prevent them. May there be healing to all, especially the survivor, who was too young to even begin to understand the complexities.

    12. Doris M Spanios

      I live here in seymour missouri. And I can tell you thus goes around more than you know. They did nothing to the four boys. Bit they dis punish the girl. We are outraged by this. Also there is nothing mentally wrong with those boys. Everyone know the family. They know how to lie and cheat. I know this first hand. They will stall mighty but I can tell you the Amish in this area will lie,steal and destroy from the English neighbor. Had it done.

      1. Stephanie Berkey

        Then they should appeal it to a higher court for justice and to help the boys and community learn from their mistakes.

    13. Aj

      First of all, it is disgusting, but I guarantee that many of the people criticizing that it was decided on the basis of their religion, had nothing to say about the recent law pass in California.

      The Amish do not condone or support sexual relationship ms between siblings or underage relationships. This is one case involving Amish siblings suffering from a lack of mental development and immaturity. The younger kids probably didn’t even think about the acts and followed the oldest sibling in committing it. I definitely believe jail is warranted for the oldest siblings because they should have been able to comprehend their actions, which is both disgusting and also harmful to their family and the community. With that said I don’t really know what the prosecution was thinking or what they saw. Maybe the “immaturity” they speak about was reference to them being “mentally challenged”, but saying it was “immaturity” is a nice way of saying it to not offend people.