Beard-cutting convicts to be scattered across 5 states

From a recent report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The fractured Amish community of Bergholz is distraught over news that bishop Samuel Mullet and seven of his hate crime co-defendants have been assigned to prisons scattered across the country — some as far as 1,000 miles away.

Samuel Mullet originally had been designated to serve his 15-year sentence in Loretto, Pa. — the same low-security federal correctional institution where former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo is being housed. But over the weekend, Mullet was notified that he had been “re-designated” to a prison in Texarkana, Texas.

Mullet’s three sons and the other men have been assigned to prisons in Minnesota, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Illinois, rather than the Elkton prison in Lisbon, Ohio, which is the closest to their rural homes in Jefferson County, about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland.

It occurred that this may be being done to dampen Mullet’s influence and weaken the group by spreading the convicts over such a large area.  The article mentions “security concerns” factoring into the decision, which was made by the US Bureau of Prisons.

Unsurprisingly, Mullet’s defense attorney has questioned the assignments in a letter to US District Judge Dan Polster:

“Your honor, I have very serious concerns that these designations are not being made in the interests of justice,” Bryan wrote. “If the defendants are housed in separate facilities, all outside a reasonable travel distances from their families, our clients will experience additional hardships not anticipated by your honor when you imposed sentence.”

It’s not clear how much Polster can do, though, as he can only make recommendations: “I typically recommend the closest suitable facility to their residence so their family members have the best opportunity to visit them.”

A couple of questions immediately sprung to mind: how common is it to designate federal convicts to prisons so far away from their families?  And in this case, is it just?

For one, given the importance of family to the members of this group, I can see how Bryan’s argument might resonate in his clients’ favor.  Those will be expensive and distant taxi rides for the Bergholz children to visit their parents, and thus probably infrequent ones.

On the other hand, if this is a cult as many have described it, maybe this is the best way to decisively weaken the group and prevent future evils.  Greater short-term pain for a (hoped-for) long-term good?

What do you think?

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    1. Marvin Mohler

      That day they were doing their dirty work did they think about this time? Absolutely not. They deserve the full sentence far away from home.

    2. Dale

      Prison assignment

      I think that prisons generally house prisoners where ever it is most convenient for the prison system. Knowing a family with a member serviing a life sentence; they’ve housed him all over the state of California without regards to the hardship imposed on the family if they want to go visit him.

    3. Amish or former Amish

      Given all that has transpired with this group, their proactive interaction with the media, their absolute denial of common sense and respect for others, the law and authority, I think it is better to define the Bergholz group as “former Amish.” Real Amish, from Swartzentrubers to New Order, would never, ever have behaved in the way the members of the Bergholz have. People are defined by their actions, and clearly the actions of the Bergholz group prove beyond a doubt that they are NOT Amish.

      1. Bruce,
        Many of my Amish friends believe as you do. “Former Amish” is the correct term to use. Love your blog, wish I could write and take pictures like you do.

        1. For Tom

          Thanks for your nice comments, Tom.

      2. Mary Yoder

        Beard Cutting

        I agree with you all about being Former Amish and scatter them is fine with me.

        Bruce, can I ask you a question, if in case you do see this. Do you take pictures for fun or for your enterprise?? In plain words, do you share or sell? I am with a magazine that could use some high quality bird pictures and many others of nature. Can we get together somehow on this? It’s called The Connection.

        Erik might be able to help me?

        1. For Mary Yoder


          Please leave a comment on my blog and I’ll give you my contact information. I’d be glad to work with you if I can.



    4. Laura

      I don’t think the prison systems, state or federal, care that much about people being close to family. For example, did you know that a few years ago the county jail, Lorton, for Washington, D.C. was closed and every single inmate now serving time for a D.C. local crime is housed in a prison in Ohio? We’re talking people from one of the poorest cities in the U.S., who have to travel hundreds of miles to see family members locked up for even brief periods. (As an utterly unrelated aside, the Lorton inmates had also been permitted to keep cats as pets, and when they closed the prison over 1500 cats had to be rehomed!)

      But back to the Bergholz group. Frankly, I have no sympathy for them. I think distance from their families may be the safest way for other Amish to help their families find their way back to Christ again. A good helping of that is what the rest of the Bergholz community needs. Especially the ones in jail! Separating them may be the only way to give them a chance to truly repent of their crimes.

    5. Melissa H

      Inmates moved...

      My husband travels to the maximum security prision here in OK once a month to minister to the men held there. Over the past 6 months alone, he knows of no fewer than 12 inmates that were moved to other facilities within, and outside, of the state. One inmate has been moved twice in 6 months (and NOT because of behavioral or gang related issues). Knowing that, I think the main reason for transfering the Bergholz’ group to different prisions so far apart is to help break their proximity to their cult/group, which would cause a break in trust and overbearance–known gang members are often moved away from their “territory” to try to help break the connection, could be what’s happening here.

    6. Come out from amongst them and be ye separate.

      Be careful out among the English.

    7. Linda Landreth

      Paying the price

      Did they think of the consequences first? It doesn’t look like it. I think they got a just sentence. They don’t represent the real Amish. Separate these people.

    8. Sadie

      Ah I don’t know. All I can say is that I’d guess the judge or whoever made the prison-assignments felt there was a good and valid reason for the assignments. Perhaps with so much publicity over the case in Ohio the decision-maker(s) believed the group would receive less harassment by other inmates at facilities away from the area?

    9. Eli S

      Justice is one thing. Rehabilitation is another.
      Those who were wronged need to sense justice was served. I am certain they would forgive Sam in an instant if they were convinced he had changed and was no longer a threat. I would like to see his victims have a voice how all this handled. Would they visit if he was local? But how do you rehabilitate a cult leader? It will be different from rehabilitating his followers. Sam planned, they obeyed. Get them away from Sam and chances are he will lose his influence. Prison will give them lots of time to think about things.
      Maybe I’m just dreaming.

      1. Cult leader rehab?

        Eli you touched on some thoughts I had floating around my head on this…How do you rehab a cult leader? Is it even possible? Energy is probably better spent on helping the followers. If someone has such supposed control over a flock, cutting off contact seems to be one of the few options for getting those people into a healthier situation. But won’t he still be able to communicate via letters and phone even from Texas? I know that’s not nearly as powerful as being among the people, but still there seemed to be some full-throated support voiced in his favor. “He is still our bishop”, etc.

        On justice, wouldn’t more if not most Amish support a much lesser punishment were they convinced a) he was truly repentant and remorseful and b) he no longer posed a credible threat? I have to think most did not believe either or both of these were true, hence the anecdotal support I keep hearing for the punishments, and the rather extraordinary pre-sentencing letters in favor of long prison time.

    10. You do the crime, you do the time.

      I think it’s a good idea to split up this brood of vipers. Sorry that the families can’t visit, but if the gang stays together, they will be able to keep things going from prison. Drugs dealers do it all the time, which is why the guys who used to be housed so conveniently in Lorton are now serving time in Ohio.

      1. Linda Landreth


        Right on! Well said!

    11. glen k wilson

      not a finnancial hardship


    12. What do they do to deserve this?

      Cut hair and beards? These will grow back. Is this some “tradition” from Reformation times?
      Hundreds of ‘sect’ people go unpunished for crimes worse than that, pedophilia, for example among rabbis and Catholic clergy.
      Corporate “sectarians” commit mass crimes of hate towards humanity by pushing dangerous vaccines, GMO, fluor and aspartame…
      Gov’t and media militarists and hate-mongers push for genocidal wars, scott free…
      This is justice?
      Also, it’s not up to us to rule if the convicts cease to be Amish or not. They are just sinners, like everyone else is, some more than others, but the final judgement is God’s. Forgiveness and care for all of God’s Creation is big in the Christian belief system of the Amish.

    13. Ed

      I am a bit put off by some of the “lock ’em up” attitudes displayed here. And I think this sentence is WAY out of proportion for the “crime” of cutting beards — something that would be ignored or brushed off by the justice system in almost any other context.

      I do understand that Sam Mullet is a cult leader who did a bunch of other bad (though not illegal) things. And perhaps sending him away will reduce his power over his followers. Or, his followers could turn him into a martyr of sorts and he could use this experience to “prove” that he’s been oppressed by the government for practicing his beliefs. We are on very dangerous ground when we expect the government to protect us from objectionable religious leaders.

      Whatever happens, the entire group is headed for a very difficult time. They will be housed among the general prison population, amongst violent felons and under harsh circumstances. As happens so often, there is no fairness or “justice” with this sentence.

      1. Dirk

        I think you are right, his followers will most likely turn him into a living martyr, one willing to suffer for his beliefs and an example to all. Generally with extremist groups perceieved persecution makes them more fanatical and extreme.
        I just hope that they have learnt a lesson and keep their discipline methods in-house and leave others alone.
        I wonder if moving him to TX will mean a mass migration of his followers to that state to be near their beloved leader?
        This story is far from over.

    14. KimH

      The crimes were not “just cutting beards..” there were indeed many illegal crimes committed, some by Mullet & others instigated by him. Just because mainstream didnt hear them doesnt mean they didnt exist. This wasnt just a local crime.. this was a Federal Crime & it takes on a whole different flavor.

      I dont really think that moving prisoners to many places is unusual, especially for federal convicts. Someone from Texas I know was moved to Arizona, then to Michigan, then to either Oklahoma or Arkansas to serve out the remainder of his time. He wasnt a threat to anyone and actually got out early due to good behavior. There are also different degrees of prinsons so chances are pretty good none of these folks will be sent to any of the worst offender divisions.

      It doesnt bother me one bit that they’re being separated across the US..

    15. Werner Lange

      Have you folks no shame, compassion or even a modicum of a sense of justice? Bishop Mullet is a modern day version of Jakob Ammon, the founder of the Amish community based upon righteous indignation/anger (a trait repeatedly exhibited by the founder of Christianity) at the laxity and sins of other Anabaptist groups of his time, an abyss far too many Amish contaminated by vulture culture have fallen into today. Because of this utterly cruel persecution of this honorable and devout man, his name (and that of his persecuted followers, including his sons) can also be added to the long list of martyrs in Martyrs Mirror. His sentence is, in effect, a death sentence. For what? Having members of his congregation who cut hair without permission? There is a constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment, something the biased federal judge and federal persecutor completely ignored in this sordid case. His physical removal far from his beloved strictly Amish community is designed to destroy Bergholz, something tyrants would do. Remember, especially in seasons like this, the crucifixion if followed by a resurrection. No lie lives forever, and truth can never the imprisoned forever.

      1. Don Curtis

        Where did you get your information?

        Calling Sam Mullet honorable and devout is laughable. Why would a “devout” man tell his followers it was a waste of time to hold church services? Why would an honorable man have sexual relations with women who weren’t his wife? Why would a member of a non-resistant community send thugs out to break into other people’s homes to terrorize them? This wacko will have a record alright but it will be a criminal record not written up in the Martyr’s Mirror. Sorry, but you’re way off base, Mister.

    16. Robert

      beard cutting

      I think the punishment is way over the top. A few months in county jail would have been good.

    17. Forest

      There is an article on Fox news today about the remainder of the Mullets getting ready to go to the pen Friday. It talks about the school having it’s closing program early so the kids can spend a little extra time with parents. Seems to hint that some of the folks regret what they did; others clearly do not. It paints a very sad picture and I acually find myself feeling sorry for them on some level. It’s a very sad affair.