Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mullet Cult Trial Begins

Those of us who follow news of the weird have waited months to finally see this day come to pass. Yesterday jury selection was completed for the trial of Amish Bishop Sam Mullet and fifteen other members of his breakaway sect. As my regular readers know, Mullet is on trial for allegedly ordering his followers to cut the hair and beards of other Amish men and women involved in a dispute with his Bergholz Clan, as the group calls itself. Mullet and his co-defendants were arrested last November in what one might call a daring nighttime FBI raid, you know, had the targets not been pacifist Amish who also happened to be asleep at the time. At any rate, with jury selection complete the trial of the Mullet Cult can now move forward.

A jury was selected on Monday for the case being heard in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, The Associated Press reported.

Samuel J. Mullet Sr. and his co-defendants, all but one of them relatives, face charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, hate crimes and obstruction, "because of actual or perceived religion" of the victims, according to an affadavit.

Sixteen men and women are accused in three separate attacks on nine people. Mullet, 66, is accused of being the ringleader of the assaults although authorities say he was not present during any of them, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors will seek to show that Mullet had cult leader-like control over the members of the Amish clan who allegedly engaged in the attacks.

There's no word yet on whether any of the members of the newly selected jury actually sport mullets. But that raises an important question - would the presence of a genuine mullet on the hair-cutting jury sway deliberations for against the defendants? I could see that one going either way. On the one hand, I can only assume mullet-wearers are more likely to think of being given a bad haircut as no big deal. On the other, they probably are also none too happy about being associated with a man some describe as a controlling cult leader - because even though the mullet is business up front, it also promises a party in the back. The Amish, after all, aren't exactly party animals, and Mullet's group is regarded as quite conservative even among other Amish.

UPDATE: On Wednesday Salon put up an article covering the first day of testimony in the trial. Andy Hershberger, the son of one of the men who was attacked, testified that his father's hair was cut in retaliation over a religious disagreement with Mullet. The defendants do not deny that the attacks took place, but rather claim that the Amish are bound by religious rather than secular law. We'll see how that works out for them as the trial unfolds.

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