Amish sect leader to remain jailed until Ohio trial

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/January 23, 2012

Amish sect leader Sam Mullet, accused of orchestrating a series of beard-cutting attacks against other Amish throughout Ohio, will remain jailed pending trial in March on federal hate crimes charges.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland today denied several release requests filed by Mr. Mullet's public defender, Ed Bryan.

In his latest motion this morning, Mr. Bryan accused the Justice Department of deliberately invoking imagery of the Branch Davidians' fiery end nearly two decades ago in its attempts to keep Mr. Mullet locked up.

Mr. Bryan said the government is trying to portray Mr. Mullet, 66, bishop of the Bergholz community in Jefferson County, Ohio, as another David Koresh, the leader of the Davidians who perished with 81 followers in a fire in 1993 in Texas after a standoff with the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In asking the judge to keep Mr. Mullet jailed, the U.S. attorney's office in Cleveland last week said he should not be let out because agents might then have to go to his "compound" in Bergholz to re-arrest him, risking an armed confrontation.

The government also said Mr. Mullet has issued death threats in the past and has complete control over his community -- to the point where female members of his household need to ask him for permission to speak.

Mr. Bryan today objected to the use of the word "compound," saying Mr. Mullet's 800-acre property "is not some sort of fortress in the middle of nowhere."

Rather, he said, it's a working farm consisting of a house, some outbuildings, a store where his wife sells some goods and a one-room schoolhouse.

"Undoubtedly, the government is attempting to harken memories of Waco, Texas, where the Branch Davidians, at David Koresh's command, resisted Mr. Koresh's arrest by an armed conflict with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents," Mr. Bryan said.

He also said Mr. Mullet does not have a stockpile of weapons. He does have a some hunting rifles, Mr. Bryan said, but would give those up as a condition of his bond.

Today's ruling ends an argument between Mr. Mullet and the Justice Department over whether he is a menace, although the issue will re-emerge should Mr. Mullet go to trial.

In previous hearings for Mr. Mullet and 11 of his followers under indictment, attorneys have also accused the Justice Department of likening Mr. Mullet to Jim Jones, the cult leader responsible for inciting the 1978 mass suicide of 909 followers in Guyana.

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