Amish sect leader from Ohio is rich, federal prosecutors claim

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/April 28, 2012

Amish leader Sam Mullet has more than $2 million from oil and gas leases on his farm and should be forced to pay the going rate for a private lawyer instead of enjoying a taxpayer-subsidized defense, the Justice Department says.

Mr. Mullet, 66, charged in Ohio with orchestrating a series of beard-cutting attacks on other Amish, earlier this week said his recently acquired wealth means he can pay a significant bond and be released pending trial in Cleveland on federal hate crimes charges.

But the government on Thursday opposed that request, saying he has been deceitful about his income.

In asking U.S. District Judge Dan Polster to reject the request for release, the U.S. attorney's office said Mr. Mullet should no longer be allowed to use the services of Ed Bryan, his public defender.

A previous court order required Mr. Mullet to pay a discount rate of $125 an hour for the public defender, but prosecutors said that figure is well below the market rate for a private defense attorney that Mr. Mullet could afford.

Prosecutors also took the unusual step of asking Judge Polster to force Mr. Mullet to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the public defender's time at the full market rate since the start of the case. In addition, they asked the judge to order Mr. Bryan to accurately calculate all the time he has spent on the defense and to turn over all his communications to the judge regarding Mr. Mullet's finances.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Getz said Mr. Mullet has essentially manipulated the court system to obtain a discount defense.

On March 9, for example, the government said Mr. Mullet's wife, Martha, offered to pay $60,000 in cash to pay off the mortgage on the home of one of her children, a potential government witness.

Yet three days later, the U.S. Probation Department had yet to be told of the newfound funds as required by the judge in ordering an appraisal of Mr. Mullet's finances.

Mr. Getz also argued that Mr. Mullet's access to millions of dollars increases the risk that he would flee rather than reduces it, as Mr. Mullet and his lawyer argue.

Mr. Getz said that the government's greatest fear is that Mr. Mullet will return to his 800-acre farm in Bergholz if released and hole up there with family and followers who are devoted to him, forcing a confrontation with federal agents.

He also said Mr. Mullet has complete control over Bergholz and that people in surrounding Amish communities are afraid of him. Included in his motion are four handwritten letters from people on the outside asking that Mr. Mullet remain behind bars.

"We think he is an evil, dangerous person," wrote one. "Also a cult leader."

Mr. Getz said it was not a coincidence that the beard-cuttings stopped after Mr. Mullet was arrested by the FBI.

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