CLEVELAND - Ten men and two women were indicted Tuesday on seven federal counts accusing them in a series of religiously motivated assaults on the Amish, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
The indictment addresses five assaults between September and November in which the defendants are accused of ''forcibly cutting off their beards and head hair and causing them other physical injuries because of previous and ongoing religious disagreements.''
According to the indictment, the manner in which Amish men wear their beards and Amish women wear their hair are symbols of their faith.
Charged with conspiracy to violate the federal hate crimes prevention act; obstruction of justice; witness tampering and the destruction or concealment of evidence, are:
Samuel Mullet Sr., Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Lester S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Shrock, Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller, Linda Shrock.
The hate crime statute prohibits anyone from causing bodily injury or attempting to do so by use of a dangerous weapon, because of the actual or perceived religion of that person.
Samuel Mullet, 66, of Bergholz
Johnny S. Mullet, 37, of Bergholz
Daniel S. Mullet, 37, of Bergholz
Levi F. Miller, 53, of Bergholz
Eli M. Miller, 32, of Bergholz
Emanuel Shrock, of Bergholz
Lester Miller, 37, of Irondale
Raymond Miller, 37, of Irondale
Freeman Burkholder, 30, of Irondale
Anna Miller, of Bergholz
Linda Shrock, of Bergholz
Lester Mullet, 26, of Hammondsville
The indictment also charges various groups of defendants with separate assaults. The indictment also charges Samuel Mullet Sr., Levi Miller, Lester Mullet and Lester Miller with concealing or attempting to conceal various items of tangible evidence, including a camera, photographs and over-the-counter medication that was allegedly placed in the drink of one of the victims.
The defendants could face life in prison on the hate crime charge.
According to the indictment, Lester Miller went on Sept. 6 to the property of Samuel Mullet Sr., the bishop of the Amish community in Bergholz, to obtain a Wahl battery-operated hair clippers.
Then Lester Miller, along with Eli Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller and others, hired a driver to take them to a home in Trumbull County where they entered a home and forcibly restrained two unidentified residents using scissors and the Wahl batter-operated hair clippers to forcibly cut off the male resident's beard and head hair as well as the female resident's head hair. The court document alleges the intruders caused bodily injury to the couple.
According to the indictment, Samuel Mullet exerted control over the Bergholz community by taking the wives of other men into his home, and by overseeing various means of disciplining community members, including corporal punishment.
''At all times relevant ... Samuel Mullet Sr. misappropriated the wives of other members of the community and 'counseled' them on how to be sexually satisfied in their marriages. To this end, the women were expected to leave their husbands and children and live in Samuel Mullet Sr.'s house where they were further expected to be sexually intimate with him. The women who disobeyed or resisted this practice were ostracized from the community,'' the indictment alleges.
The remaining defendants are members of Mullet's community and are related to Mullet. As a result of religious disputes with other members of the Ohio Amish, the defendants planned and carried out a series of assaults on their perceived religious enemies. The assaults involved the use of hired drivers, either by the defendants or the alleged victims, because practitioners of the Amish religion do not operate motor vehicles.
The assaults all entailed using scissors and battery-powered clippers to forcibly cut or shave the beard hair of the male victims and the head hair of the female victims, according to the indictment.
During each assault, the defendants restrained and held down the victims. During some of the assaults, the defendants injured individuals who attempted to intervene to protect or rescue the victims. Following the attacks, some of the defendants participated in discussions about concealing photographs and other evidence of the assaults, according to the indictment.
''Every American has the right to worship in the manner of his or her choosing without fear of violent interference,'' said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. ''The Civil Rights Division will aggressively investigate allegations of religiously motivated violence.''
''For nearly 500 years, people have come to this land so that they could pray however and to whomever they wished,'' said Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. ''Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country.''