Mullets Sentenced for Beard Crimes

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Samuel MulletAmish gang leader Samuel Mullet, Sr., three of his sons and 12 others were sentenced to prison terms today for a series of attacks against other Ohio Amish that Mullet believed were enemies of his group, which prosecutors described as a "cult." Mullet received 15 years for masterminding the attacks, in which the group assaulted their targets, held them down and cut off their beards. The other defendants received lesser sentences.

The Mulleteers were convicted in September of conspiracy and violating federal hate-crime laws, which prosecutors invoked because of the religious motivation behind the attacks. See "Mullet Guilty in Beard Case," Lowering the Bar (Sept. 20, 2012). Beards and long hair have religious significance to the Amish, and Mullet believed the victims had departed from more traditional beliefs. The case is notable not just for its odd facts but also because it was one of the first involving a 2009 federal-hate-crime law, and because of the government's hilarious argument that it involved "interstate commerce" because the scissors they used were made in New York. That one is a real hoot.

I have no objection to seeing Mullets behind bars, but think reasonable people could disagree about the appropriate sentence here. Certainly Mullet Sr. appears to be a a bad person, not just because of the beard attacks but because, if the government sentencing memo is correct, he also manipulated and abused the members of his own group. But the government actually argued for life imprisonment, though it probably didn't expect that to happen. Fifteen years (for a 67-year-old man) also seems like a bit much. But on the other hand, I've noticed while writing this paragraph that I appear to feel no sympathy whatsoever for the plight of Samuel Mullet, Sr., so maybe that says something about the appropriateness of the sentence, or maybe it just means it is time for lunch. Either way, it is time for this paragraph to end.

Mullet sort of took some responsibility for what he had done wrong, if anything. "I'm an old man and not long for this world," he said, although there is nothing in the report about him being in ill health. "If somebody needs to be blamed for this," he continued, which I think is what a "conviction" normally entails, "and I'm a cult leader," which he probably said sarcastically, "I'm willing to take the blame for everybody." Brave words indeed, here's an orange jumpsuit.