Cleveland, Ohio - An Amish bishop from Carroll County feared the "cultlike" brain-washing activities Samuel Mullet Sr. was promoting in his flock of Old Order Amish families in neighboring Bergholz, and ordered his followers to sever their ties to the Mullet group.
Bishop Myron Miller, 46, of Carrollton, testified this morning that his Amish group's conflicts with the Mullet clan reached a climax after Mullet's son, Billy, was excommunicated from Miller's church.
Mullet and 15 of his followers are on trial in U.S. District Court here for committing hate crimes by waging a series of hair-cutting attacks last fall on nine religious enemies and estranged family members.
Days later, on the night of Oct. 4, Miller said a group of the "Bergholz Boys" rousted him out of bed, grabbed him by the beard and pulled him outside.
"I saw the flash of scissors, I knew what they were going to do, and I was powerless to stop them," Miller testified.
Johnny Mullet, Sam's son, cut off Miller's beard - a humiliating experience for a married Amish man, he testified.
Other witnesses have testified previously during the two-week trial that Sam Mullet, 66, disciplined his flock by forcing men to sleep in chicken coops, and engaged in sexual liaisons with young married women under the guise of marriage counseling and cleansing them of sin.
Mullet is the religious and social leader of about 18 families in Bergholz, about 100 miles from Cleveland. He is charged with orchestrating - but not participating in - the beard-cutting and hair-clipping raids last year.
Beards and long hair are sacred symbols of an Amish follower's devotion to God.
The case is the first in Ohio to apply a landmark 2009 federal law and has attracted national and international attention. To obtain convictions, federal prosecutors must establish that the cutting of beard and head hair is bodily harm, and that the attacks were religiously motivated.
Defense attorneys have denied that religion was behind the beard-cuttings, or that Sam Mullet played any part in the attacks.