An Amish ringleader, his henchmen sons and their wives appear headed to prison after a series of bizarre attacks in which they cut the beards and hair in violent attacks on others in their communities, but lawyers are saying that locking them up could leave 50 or more children without parents.
Breaking Amish: The New Generation, anyone?
Let's face it -- if you're not Amish, you don't really understand the Amish, no matter how many times you've seen that 80s tearjerker Witness. And even if you think you know the Amish, you don't know these Amish.
They're led by Sam Mullet Sr., 66, who's accused of being a sort of weird hybrid of Tony Soprano and L. Ron Hubbard and running a little Amish community located just a few miles into Ohio away from the West Virginia panhandle.
1. Mullet Demands Utmost Obedience
The 25 families living in Mullet's settlement says you'll do what he says, or else. And like any good "family," he's got thugs for sons to use as henchmen to terrorize people into obeying their father.
2. He Didn't Cut Anyone's Hair Himself
He's got the unfortunate last name of Mullet, but this guy wasn't manning the shears. Of course, these are people who don't follow Billy Ray Cyrus or professional wrestling, so they didn't know they were following a guy whose name means business in front, party in the back to everyone else.
3. Beards and Hair Significant to the Amish
Mullet planned attacks that involved sending his boys and other worshipers out to break into other Amish people's houses during the night, pull them out and shear them like so many errant sheep. For the rest of us, getting a hair cut isn't a big deal. But Amish women keep their hair long because it's a religious mandate, and men grow their beards long when they marry, also for religious reasons. Shearing them is a very big deal.
4. Mullet Thought He Was Above the Law
"You have your laws on the road and the town — if somebody doesn't obey them, you punish them. But I'm not allowed to punish the church people?"
The hair cuttings were done because of criticism from other Amish leaders that he was being too strict. Mullet, though, thought he was above the law -- especially if it's not Amish law.
5. He Ruled Over the Women
One woman testified that Mullet made -- or even coerced -- the women at the settlement into having sex with him. Like many a religious cult leader before him, ordering sex is one way to keep the women in line -- and the men too.
6. Men Were Made to Sleep in Chicken Coops
Chickens aren't the only ones sleeping in the coops at Mullet's Ohio settlement. He'd have men who objected to his iron rule locked up for the night -- and of course, leaving their women alone to get screwed.
7. Amish People Usually Solve Their Own Problems
Usually, the Amish keep their problems to themselves, meting out punishments such as shunning, ordering extra butter churning and the like. But this time around they called local Sheriff Fred Abdalla in, and eventually the case reached the federal level. Seems tackling people and cutting off their beards -- when they're growing them as part of their religion -- is considered a religious hate crime, no matter how silly it might seem to everyone else.
8. Amish People Go to Prison, Too
Mullet faces up to life in prison. His sons, their wives and others who worshiped their leader enough to turn into thugs face at least 17 years in prison. Wonder if the folks on the cellblock know the words to Amish Paradise?
9. These People Have Lots of Kids
Elizabeth Miller and her husband Lester, wants leniency so their 11 children don't go parentless. Yes, 11. They're getting down on the farm in Ohio. Altogether, the people heading for prison have 50 kids, and their lawyers say sending the parents to jail is going to make a hardship. But before you swoop in to adopt yourselves some Amish kids, Brad and Angelina, the youngsters have a place to go, says the local sheriff:
"It's Amish wanting to take these kids in. It's their relatives, it's their uncles, it's their aunts. That's the Amish, that's their culture. They are loving people, good people, God-fearing people."
10. The Amish Don't Like Modern Life -- But They'll Use It
Amish people don't want electrical appliances and automobiles, preferring to embrace their traditional roots. But Mullet and his gang of merry hair cutters had cameras so they could take photos of their handiwork. And they all arrived for their trial in vans, not in buggies.