Some Amish want life sentence for Sam Mullet

From a story just published:

Some Amish are asking for a life sentence for the man convicted of beard cutting attacks.

The U.S. Attorney in Cleveland has received 14 letters from Amish in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, in which a “long” or “life” sentence for renegade Amish bishop Sam Mullet, Sr., is requested.

Fourteen letters is more than just one or two isolated people writing.  No telling if these letters were coordinated, or written independently.  But it gives a sense of the level of fear of Mullet among Amish.

“We would be very uncomfortable if Mr. Mullet would become loose,” wrote one Amish petitioner. “He is an evil, dangerous person. Also a cult leader,” wrote another.

A number of the letters thanked authorities for prosecuting and convicting Mullet and the others, and expressed fear if he should ever be set free.  “If Sam Mullet gets released the dear children in Bergholz have no choice but to live in his cult,” one Amish resident wrote.

Sentencing for Mullet and 14 others is scheduled for this Friday, February 8th.

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    1. John


      Common feeling throughout a lot of communities –

    2. Alice Mary

      They're serious!

      For the Amish to write to an “english” attorney regarding this case seems pretty eye-opening to me, even shocking. They must truly be quite fearful of the man (and his “cult” as referred to above) to resort to this action on their part.

      Erik, do you know of any other instance where the Amish did anything similar, reaching out to “the (english) law” like this? I feel for them!

      Alice Mary

    3. KimH

      I agree with Alice Mary.. For so many to step forward in a case like this seems pretty unimaginable.
      Personally, I think he needs more mental health help than anything but being released to harm others isnt the answer either.

    4. Lattice

      “If Sam Mullet gets released the dear children in Bergholz have no choice but to live in his cult,”

      Wow. Is that what they would have to do? Mullet is ordained “for life.” He may or may not repent of his terrible actions and severely twisted thinking, but when he returns, he’s still the Bishop for that community, right? And they are either bound to his direction, unless he gives them permission to leave, or else they have to leave the church, right? That’s my understanding – it’s not unlike the bonds of marriage – even if your spouse is as terrible as you can imagine, you’re still married until death. I believe Mullet is considered the Bishop until death. In my mind I think, “Well, surely other Amish churches wouldn’t hold that community to the “rules” in this case,” but they hold people to the covenant of marriage,… no matter what.

      1. It is a good question Lattice…is that hyperbole based in fear, is there really no option C?

        Maybe in a practical sense there isn’t. I do not know. I’d think other Amish churches that are obviously concerned about the children would be interested in doing what they could to help this group or at the least the innocent young ones.

        On the other hand maybe separating from them completely is the only option the see given all the trauma that has been inflicted.

        1. Lattice

          Yes, like you, I think surely other Amish church communities would throw their arms wide open. I’m just afraid the people of Mullet’s community will hold themselves prisoner – Bound by tradition, and fear of God (and Sam).

    5. Lydia Wallace


      I have been following this community’s brushes with the law for a couple of years prior to the beard-cutting case, ever since Sam Mullet and his daughter appeared on TV and in web interviews about the Amish school standoff with local police over a child custody battle. This apparently had to do with allegations of child sexual abuse committed by members of Mullet’s family. It is my understanding that the later attacks were intended as retaliation for attempts by other Amish communities to intervene and remonstrate with Mullet over the alleged abuses of authority in his community. I am not surprised that some are taking this stance.

    6. Carolyn B

      I feel for these 14 different letter-writers. If I or someone I loved had survived such an attack, I wouldn’t want the perpetrators back in my community. I’d be terrified things would return to the old ways or escalate to something worse.

      God bless all the innocent in the midst of this situation.

    7. Ed

      Apparently the prosecutor took the letter-writers’ requests seriously and has asked the judge for a life sentence.

      Personally I think that is going way overboard. Sam Mullet may be a bad person, a cult leader and a nasty neighbor, but none of those are illegal. The only criminal act he was accused of involved cutting beards without consent. I would think that strict probation terms (such as an order of protection to stay away from victims, perhaps perform community service) would be what is called for. I can’t imagine an non-Amish person charged with similar acts would be contemplating a life sentence.

      1. Sam Mullet's influence?

        I spoke with someone in PA yesterday, I think there is just a lot of apprehension as to what would happen if Mullet is reunited with his group.

        On the other hand I wonder how influential he remains behind bars. You hear the stories of gang leaders or religious figures maintaining a strong sway over their people even from within prison. I’ve wondered how much of those tales is real and how much is myth.

        Amish have famously demonstrated forgiveness but that doesn’t mean they extend open arms to someone who is going to do them harm. I have no idea if Mullet would even sincerely seek forgiveness for that matter. Given what we know about the case, if it were me I would be wary.

        The letters I think are atypical and a little surprising, but understandable. Though I have to be honest, life in prison, the punishment we assign to the most heinous crimes (murder, sometimes rape) sounds pretty severe.

        And I know it’s easier for someone not directly threatened to say that, but I tend to agree with the sentiment of Ed’s post above. I’m not saying no jail time is warranted from a punitive standpoint, but I have to think we are smart enough to figure out a way to isolate this person from doing further harm, short of incarcerating him for life.

        I realize that if he is released and does further (possibly more serious) harm, then that approach looks like a bad decision. I trust those with the most details and insight into this man and the case will make the right decision as to what to do here.

        1. Galen

          Nicely put Erik (you too, Ed). As others have mentioned, I’m sure there may be facts that the general public doesn’t know.

          It got me thinking about how us English lock our house doors at night as well as our cars. We don’t do that out of “fear” as it seems just a normal, almost a reflex, thing to do. I would imagine for the Amish, fear of Mr. Mullet is huge and maybe they don’t know how to respond to such fear. It is tough crossing Amish to English law. I don’t think we put our preachers/priests on trial for misleading us. People just leave that particular church or denomination. For the Amish this is very different. Bishop “for life” rules need to be revisited just as there have been Amish divorces, which is contrary to the rules.

          A life sentence is too harsh as Ed pointed out, yet a permanent Amish shunning would be understandable. We all fall short and need to be forgiven. But we can’t let consistent detrimental behavior threaten the young Amish lives.

          1. Galen it originally sounded like there was reluctance to get the authorities involved when this was first going on, but now that they are it is full speed ahead.

            1. Galen

              Thanks for providing the NPR link. I don’t know how I missed that.

    8. kerry

      There was much more to this than cutting of hair, which is why those letters were written. Things weren’t publicized quite so much in papers outside of the local area but are well-known here, within community circles well before this event even happened. The fear comes from knowing that the actions will continue, since he has based them on his so-called religious beliefs. The only way they know to stop is to remove him from others. But I can’t imagine that will happen.

    9. ann

      You’re right, Kerry. Nor will his removal from that community do a lot for those poor kids. That kind of abuse is a rottenness that is very hard to get rid of. The fact that he mixed it in with religious beliefs makes it that much harder for people to get free of. I feel for these people…

      1. Still in charge

        I thought of your comment Ann on reading this:

        As her teenage nephew hammers a hook into a barn wall, Miller says the young ones have stepped up to handle the daily chores of the missing men, although everyone knows that even behind bars, her father is still in charge.

        “He’s still the leader,” she says. “He’s still dad. He’s still the bishop.”

        And no matter what the judge decides on Friday, Miller says she hasn’t lost faith in Mullet.

        1. Melissa


          Ok, now I get why some want a life sentence for him but it sounds as though he still has influence over them so maybe he should be moved to an undisclosed location and all communication between him and his community to be halted?

          1. Last February Mullet was given a prison sentence of 15 years and will be quite advanced in age when he gets out. Others in his group got sentences up to seven years. There were 16 total and they were apparently placed in different prisons in different parts of the country.

    10. Forest

      Just heard Sam Mullet got 15 years, the others got less.

      1. Galen

        Thanks for the update Forest. I forgot today was the day.

    11. Galen

      As I’m reading through the court documents, and maybe you all covered this on this site when it all happened and I missed something. And let me preface this by saying I’m not a fan of Sam Mullet or what transpired but it leads me to think (legally), how did Sam get a “jury of his peers?” Were the jurors educated on the Amish life?

      I was reading the posts under the major news station reports and most commenters, are totally ignorant, if not misinformed about the Amish. This is so much more than just a hairdresser/barber cutting hair without a licence.

      As a result of this case, I’m sure a lot of people are calling ALL Amish a cult and that is not fair, nor is it accurate.

      I pray that those affected by this can somehow find peace.

    12. Melissa

      Life in prison?

      Couldn’t the Amish excommunicate him from their community and shun him?