Amish Men Sentenced for Drug Roles

The Associated Press, June 30, 1999
By Joann Loviglio

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Two Amish men received a year in prison Wednesday for buying cocaine from bikers and selling it among youth groups in their strict religious community.

Abner Stoltzfus, 25, and Abner King Stoltzfus, 24, Lancaster County men who are not related, are members of the Old Order Amish, the most conservative Anabaptist sect.

They eschew automobiles, electricity, computers, fancy clothes and most other modern conveniences, and use horse-driven buggies for transportation.

``These defendants ... were responsible for bringing disrepute to themselves, their families and their community,'' U.S. District Judge Clarence C. Newcomer said.

Nearly 200 Amish, some holding babies, packed the courtroom and hallway outside. All were clad in traditional Amish dress - women in dark smocks and white bonnets, men in suspenders and straw hats. As Newcomer read the sentences, many wept quietly or buried their faces in their hands.

Both men apologized to the judge and said they have turned their lives around since their arrest in June 1998, returning to their religious roots and spreading the word in the Amish community about the dangers of drugs.

``When I was a teen-ager I got with the wrong crowd. ... I've changed my life around (and) gave my heart and soul to God,'' Abner Stoltzfus said. ``I apologize deep from the bottom of my heart.''

A sobbing Abner King Stoltzfus said only a few words before he was overcome with emotion.

``We lived a terrible life for a while. We want to try to be better,'' he said.

Newcomer said he appreciated the men's cooperation with investigators - they wore recording devices in their hats during discussions with Pagans motorcycle gang members. But the judge said he had to send a message about the severity of the men's actions.

Prosecutors said the men purchased $100,000 worth of cocaine from members of the Pagans between 1992 and 1997, then sold the drugs at hoe-downs for the Crickets, the Antiques and the Pilgrims youth groups.

The men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver cocaine and could have received up to four years in prison.

On Tuesday, seven people connected with the Pagans were sentenced, most to four or five years in prison, for their roles in the drug ring.

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