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February 5, 2013

Feds request LWOP for Samuel Mullet Sr., leader of Amish beard-cutting gang

As reported in this local article, "Federal prosecutors today urged a judge to sentence Amish bishop Samuel Mullet to life in prison for coordinating a series of beard-cutting attacks on victims who shunned the bishop and his teachings." Here is more on the filing of the latest papers in a high-profile federal case in which sentencing is scheduled for the end of this week:

"Plainly stated, Samuel Mullet Sr. should be sentenced to a life term of imprisonment because, but for Samuel Mullet Sr., it is highly unlikely any of his co-defendants would have engaged in violent and obstructive behavior," wrote assistant U.S. attorneys Bridget Brennan and Kristy Parker.

"Samuel Mullet Sr.'s control over the Bergholz community was -- and is -- absolute.  He was able to get men to surrender their wives to him. Wives would be forced to leave their small children and live in Mullet Sr.'s home so that they could be available to him."

The 25-page document was filed just days before U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster sentences the 67-year-old Mullet and 15 family members and followers Friday.  Brennan and Parker said Mullet agreed with and openly encouraged a campaign of terror....

The document offers a sharp contrast to one filed by defense attorney Edward Bryan, who urged Polster to sentence Mullet to a prison term of two years or less, based on the minimal harm to the victims. Mullet did not participate in the five hair and beard shearings in 2011, but a federal jury last year convicted him of hate crimes for knowing about the assaults and failing to stop them from occurring.

Witnesses likened the bishop's ultraconservative Amish sect in Jefferson County, 100 miles southeast of Cleveland, to a cult that had turned its back on the religion's nonviolent traditions. Last fall's hate crimes trial offered a rare glimpse into Ohio's reclusive and peaceful Amish community. The proceeding was an unprecedented application of a landmark 2009 federal law that expanded government powers to prosecute hate crimes and attracted national and international attention.

Prosecutors have characterized Mullet as an iron-fisted bishop who exerted total control over his flock: He censored his followers' mail, had sex with married women under the guise of marital counseling, endorsed bizarre punishments such as confinement in chicken coops and spankings, and laughed at the attacks, which were driven by a crusade to punish those who spurned his teachings, prosecutors said.

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Comments

DOJ's decision to ask for LWOP in this case is somewhere between bizarre and outright crazy. What is Obama's favorite Attorney General thinking?

LWOP for a BEARD-CUTTING conspiracy? Good grief. Do they have any idea how this will sound to normal people?

You have to wonder what the hell is going on. I don't know, of course -- I am not part of this administration -- but we can take an educated guess.

This seems to be a part of the present administration's snarling hostility to religion. And one must admit the present defendant makes a good target. This "bishop" sounds like a first-class thug, and he heads a splinter group in what itself is a very small, conservative, insular religion that must seem to Holder to be an apt political target. But this is taking liberal detestation of religion to an absurd extreme.

What we have here is a 67 year-old man with no prior record (so far as I know or is reported here) who organized, and then (apparently) laughed at, beard cuttings. It's only when viewed in the funhouse mirror of Holder's Very Politically Correct DOJ that this could possibly be seen as an LWOP offense.

Does the "bishop" deserve jailtime? You bet, and I hope he gets it. But LWOP? DOJ's action would be a joke if, on account of its menacing political and cultural motivations, it weren't so dangerous.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 5, 2013 8:31:00 PM

Well, it's because of folks similar to you Bill that courts have the authority to sentence people for crimes not found by the jury. I'm glad you agree that the outcome is unjust here, but the greater problem is the system that allows a person to be effectively sentenced for far more than they were convicted of.

Posted by: Nunc Pro Tunc | Feb 5, 2013 8:54:34 PM

"Prosecutors have characterized Mullet as an iron-fisted bishop who exerted total control over his flock: He censored his followers' mail, had sex with married women under the guise of marital counseling, endorsed bizarre punishments such as confinement in chicken coops and spankings, and laughed at the attacks, which were driven by a crusade to punish those who spurned his teachings, prosecutors said."

What if if it read instead:
Mullet characterized the prosecution as iron-fisted zealots trying to exert total control over his flock: control his followers' ability to adhere to his teachings, impose the government's view as to the proper practice of religion under the guise of criminal law, endorsed extreme punishment such as LWOP, and scoffed at the characterizarions of their action as a government attack on their religion, which were driven by a crusade to punish those who spurned the teachings of the government, Mullet said.

"Brennan and Parker said Mullet agreed with and openly encouraged a campaign of terror...." Sounds to me like they are prosecution sedition. Sedtion is a tool of oppression. Hate crime legislation is functional equivilent of sedition where the thought police are concerned. While, I disagree with Mullet's views, I would hope that he can find some protection in the First Amendment

Posted by: ? | Feb 5, 2013 9:00:19 PM

Nunc Pro Tunc --

"Well, it's because of folks similar to you Bill that courts have the authority to sentence people for crimes not found by the jury."

Who are "folks similar to me?" Lawyers? Whites? Males? What are you talking about?

And the relevant conduct rule simply carries forward the long pre-existing, indeed common law, practice of allowing courts to sentence based on all information about the offender, including his other dreadful behavior.

"I'm glad you agree that the outcome is unjust here..."

There is no "outcome." He hasn't been sentenced. Try to keep up.

"...but the greater problem is the system that allows a person to be effectively sentenced for far more than they were convicted of."

Take it up with President Obama (D-IL), or Harry Reid (D-NV), or Patrick Leahy (D-VT) or Judge and USSC Chair Patti Saris (D-MA). Or you can always take it up with the SCOTUS, see US v. Watts, 519 US 148 (1997); see also 18 U.S.C. 3577.

So let's see. The President, Congress, the Supreme Court, historical practice and the common law all got it wrong, but you got it right.

Far out! If you aren't a defense lawyer, you've missed your calling.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 5, 2013 9:40:16 PM

I think the sentence is crazy, too, but I confess, Bill, I would have guessed you'd be okay with an LWOP recommendation given that this was a series of violent crimes perpetrated by a guy who knew exactly what he was doing. No excuses here. And I don't think it's hostile to religion once the Amish victims themselves called in law enforcement. If religions are free to police their own, they might have different interests that prevent effective enforcement (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_sex_abuse_cases). By the way, does everyone realize now how stupid the hate crimes law is?

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Feb 5, 2013 10:21:46 PM

It seems obvious that they are calling for LWOP because of the things he wasn't charged for and the kind of bully he was...

The upper end of whatever range he has should suffice, I would think..

I agree Bill, what are they thinking...When the population heres about this, gonna be a few marches on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Just have to wait and see how it unravels....

Posted by: Josh2 | Feb 5, 2013 10:35:17 PM

"but a federal jury last year convicted him of hate crimes for knowing about the assaults and failing to stop them from occurring."

I would like a citation of the federal law or rule requiring the reporting of a crime about which one knows.

Some commentators are puzzled by the extreme request for LWOP. They should not be at this late date. The explanation for the extreme sentencing request in a case with little or no harm, from an assault done by others? The feminist lawyer is on a witch hunt for all sources of authority competing with big government. Even feminism is not real, but a masking ideology to justify the destruction of the family, of the church and all other sources of authority competing with government.

The unfortunate thing? These sources of authority are far more effective at lowering the crime rate than the criminal law, the tool of big government.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 5, 2013 10:47:16 PM

Why is this a federal case - such a stretch. It kind of screams about why we have the highest per cent of incarcerated citizens in the world.

Posted by: beth | Feb 5, 2013 10:47:32 PM

Thinkaboutit --

"By the way, does everyone realize now how stupid the hate crimes law is?"

Unfortunately they don't, but this off-the-wall sentencing recommendation might spark some actual thought.

Any yes, it was a "violent crime," but scarcely one that calls for life. I mean, hello, beard cutting??? The guy isn't exactly Jeffrey Dahmer.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 6, 2013 12:09:47 AM

beth --

"Why is this a federal case..."

Great question. If ever there were a local case, this is it. But nooooooooooo, the Obama Administration goes for broke on a case of beard-cutting.

At first I thought this came from the Onion, but apparently it's real. I can understand why people have problems with religion. I can even understand why they discriminate against the Amish (although I strongly disagree with it and think it's nuts). But this is so out of left field that the only explantation is hate.

This from our Justice Department. Yikes.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 6, 2013 12:18:20 AM

The bizarre part is that they seem to be courting controversy with the life rec. Seems like twenty, or certainly thirty, years -- maybe even less depending on his health -- would already be an effective life sentence for a guy his age. But of course most of the work of the prosecutors is not in trials, but in applying leverage to induce pleas. Seen in that light, maybe obtaining an according-to-Hoyle life sentence for beard cutting has some utility beyond this case.

Posted by: anon | Feb 6, 2013 10:19:11 AM

It is rather ironic that their "snarling hostility to religion" involves charging someone who kidnapped people, had them held down (causing bodily harm) and cut off their hair to shame them because they had the wrong religious beliefs, the importance of this matter deemed somewhat silly [BEARD CUTTING conspiracy? really, why should the feds put so much concern on this ... concern for the religious beliefs of the victims? no, that would be silly] though for the people involved given their religious beliefs, it was quite important.

I think LWOP is rather much & think this sort of thing should be a state prosecution, but given the details of the sentencing memoranda (hinted above), what exactly is a suitable sentence, tossing in other stuff like the obstruction of justice cited etc.

"beard cutting" btw does sound a lot more trivial than the details that are spelled out.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 6, 2013 10:54:38 AM

"I would like a citation of the federal law or rule requiring the reporting of a crime about which one knows."

18 U.S.C. ยง4.

One of the many reasons the federal criminal law needs an overhaul.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 6, 2013 2:12:30 PM

Forcible beard-removal directed against men who view beardedness as a religious obligation has been a hallmark of tyranny and oppression in various times and places (against Jews during the Nazi era, against the Old Believers under Peter the Great, for example). The defendants here were not state actors, but federal prosecution of private vigilantism motivated by religious hatred (like that motivated by racial/ethnic hatred) seems plausible under the enforcement clause of the 14th amendment, certainly more plausible than federal prosecution of local drug crimes where the nexus to interstate commerce is so attenuated that it would not have been taken seriously pre-1937. LWOP definitely sounds like overkill, however.

Posted by: JWB | Feb 6, 2013 2:25:05 PM

"DOJ's decision to ask for LWOP in this case is somewhere between bizarre and outright crazy. What is Obama's favorite Attorney General thinking?"

Agreed.

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Feb 6, 2013 2:41:12 PM

Death by Drone! After all, the Amish are not a popular, pursued voting bloc.

What is our government thinking? They don't! That is asking too much.

Posted by: albeed | Feb 6, 2013 4:22:15 PM

JWB --

"The defendants here were not state actors..."

That is a huge distinction that I believe you underestimate. This is more akin to a private, factional feud.

"...federal prosecution of private vigilantism motivated by religious hatred (like that motivated by racial/ethnic hatred) seems plausible under the enforcement clause of the 14th amendment.."

It certainly isn't barred by the 14th Amendment, and it may be plausible as a matter of federal concern, but not by much. Drug abuse and the harms therefrom are widespread, and by any serious account a national problem; beard cutting, and religious violence generally in this country, aren't.

"LWOP definitely sounds like overkill, however."

It's so obviously off the wall that one has to wonder what the heck is going on. These people at DOJ aren't stupid. They're thinking something. Do you have a view as to what it might be?


Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 6, 2013 4:34:56 PM

"Prosecutors have characterized Mullet as an iron-fisted bishop who exerted total control over his flock: He censored his followers' mail, had sex with married women under the guise of marital counseling, endorsed bizarre punishments such as confinement in chicken coops and spankings, and laughed at the attacks, which were driven by a crusade to punish those who spurned his teachings, prosecutors said."

If we are willing to send a person to jail for 20 years for possession of a dozen images of CP, surely this person can get LWOP--or about 30 years, at his current age--for his crimes (LWOP is strange because there is no parole in the federal system). Why all the sympathy? He had sex with married women under the guise of counseling. He abused his power and position of trust to have sex, and I doubt these women were truly willing participants. So he is a rapist. He confined people to chicken coops. So he has committed false imprisonment, perhaps kidnapping. He engaged in spankings. I doubt those he spanked were truly willing participants. So he is a batterer.

Rape, false imprisonment, assault, battery, and, of course, the entire business of his participation in shaving beards--which, while it may seem trivial to you, is a big deal for those who are not permitted to shave them. So why exactly can't we give him a sentence just as harsh as the sentences we give to CP viewers?

Would it be different if, instead of doing all these things himself, the defendant had pictures of them being done? Would that be an easier harm to process for those who view CP possession so odiously as to warrant draconian punishment?

That last part, while tongue-in-cheek, is there for a point. It seems the sympathy, at least from the conservative folk, is misplaced.

Ted
Inmate # 2234156

Posted by: Theodor "Ted" Kaczynski | Feb 6, 2013 4:51:20 PM

Ted --

"That last part, while tongue-in-cheek, is there for a point. It seems the sympathy, at least from the conservative folk, is misplaced."

I, for one, have zero sympathy for him, nor did I say otherwise. The guy is a thug and belongs in the slammer. But the life sentence recommendation by DOJ is preposterous, as virtually the whole board agrees. If you think differently, fine, let a thousand flowers bloom.

P.S. Just somehow, I don't think you got a life sentence for CP, nor do I think DOJ recommended one, did they?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 6, 2013 5:11:55 PM

Bill,

I would call it "sympathy" if you think that the DOJ's request is too harsh. Not sympathy for his actions--I know you don't have that--but for the predicament of a harsh and potentially unjust sentence. But that is a mere semantic, not substantive, matter.

Again, I'm curious why a rapist, false imprisoner, batterer, and abuser of a position of trust and power does not deserve such a harsh sentence. How many other rapists in positions of power who rape and batter multiple times, and also infringe on religious practice, have you thought were unworthy of a life sentence? Would a 30-year sentence be OK, even though equivalent to life? The question is not just for you; it is for anyone on this site with a conservative worldview.

I think the CP comparison apt only because here we have someone who has actually perpetrated and orchestrated some really terrible things, including that--as Erika might term it--really "icky" subject of sex. Why are 20 and 30-year sentences appropriate for such people, even life sentences (faced by solicitors), whereas not for this repeat, uncontrite rapist et al.

True, I did not get a life sentence for CP. But the DOJ did, in my estimation, unreasonably reject an insanity defense. I mean, for the love of god, I lived as a hermit, mailed bombs to people, and wrote long-winded and nonsensical manifestos. I was as nutty as my aunt's pecan pie!

Ted
Inmate # 2234156

P.S.: if I send you any mail, don't open it!!! Even email could contain viruses--hell, I'm trying to get with the times.

Posted by: Theodor "Ted" Kaczynski | Feb 6, 2013 6:09:38 PM

See, I'm so old-fashioned that I don't think the question of federal v. state prosecution should depend on how important or widespread the problem is. Murder is worse than stealing some old lady's social security check out of the mail, but the former should generally be prosecuted by a county ADA and the latter by an AUSA.

That said, Ohio state prosecution for the beard-cutting conspiracy would certainly have been fine with me, since both sovereigns' interests were offended. I have no insight into why this one went federal, or what agenda DOJ might be pursuing, unless (and this is pure and perhaps cynical speculation) someone in Main Justice wanted to make a record that they were tough on religiously-motivated violence in general to protect themselves against charges of bias or selective enforcement in hypothetical future cases involving, let's say just for example, religiously-motivated Muslim defendants.

Posted by: JWB | Feb 6, 2013 6:09:58 PM

Bill! did you fall off that turnip truck again. Did you land in that fantasy land again?


" I don't think you got a life sentence for CP, nor do I think DOJ recommended one, did they? "

Sorry but in modern american any conviction for a sex crime is a LIFE sentence.

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 6, 2013 7:11:48 PM

JWB --

"I have no insight into why this one went federal, or what agenda DOJ might be pursuing, unless (and this is pure and perhaps cynical speculation) someone in Main Justice wanted to make a record that they were tough on religiously-motivated violence in general to protect themselves against charges of bias or selective enforcement in hypothetical future cases involving, let's say just for example, religiously-motivated Muslim defendants."

1. Anyone who would think that the bishop's religiously-motivated violent beard-cutting could be compared to the mass murder of 9-11, or any similar Jihadist attack, would have to be even crazier than this sentence recommendation.

2. Putting craziness to one side, it is, of course, grossly unethical prosecutorial behavior to go like a rabid hyena after a defendant -- not because the facts of his case call for it, but simply in order to cover your own ass from press attacks in the event of possible criticism in some future case.

This is the only ethical standard: Deal with each case honestly on its own facts, and let future cases (and their fallout) take care of themselves. Do that, and you'll have all the answer you'll need to the press.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 6, 2013 10:14:38 PM

good one bill. Of course i think the only real answer you need for the modern press is

"When you can reprot the facts and ONLY the fact come back. Tell then fuck off!"

I still think we are long past time for a constutional amendment for "Freedom From the Press! Unless you are doing someing that can be shown to be harmful to others or illegal."

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 7, 2013 10:43:59 AM

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