TOLEDO — Federal prosecutors want a life sentence for the leader of an Amish breakaway group convicted in a series of beard- and hair-cutting attacks, saying it's highly unlikely the attacks would have happened without his involvement.
Samuel Mullet Sr. not only orchestrated the attacks, but he also held absolute control over the members of his Amish settlement in eastern Ohio near the West Virginia panhandle, prosecutors said in court documents filed Tuesday.
Mullet is due to be sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland along with 15 others convicted in the hair-cuttings who live in the settlement. His attorney last week asked for a sentence of 18 months to two years.
The government said the cuttings were an attempt to shame members of the Amish community who Mullet believed were straying from their beliefs. His followers were found guilty of carrying out the attacks, which prosecutors say targeted hair because it carries spiritual significance in the Amish faith.
The Amish eschew many conveniences of modern life, including electrical appliances and automobiles, and embrace their centuries-old roots. They believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and for men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.
Mullet wasn't accused of cutting anyone's hair. But prosecutors said he planned and encouraged his sons and the others and mocked the victims in jailhouse phone calls.
His defense attorney, Ed Bryan, said Mullet has no criminal history and that the 67-year-old is hardly a threat to commit any more crimes. He noted Mullet is facing the same sentence as those given to notorious killers including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
But prosecutors say Mullet has not accepted responsibility for what happened and that he has tried to blame the others, including his own children, for acting on their own.
Mullet also lied to investigators and tried to hide evidence in the case, prosecutors said. Before his arrest, he defended what he believes is his right to punish people who break church laws.
Prosecutors say they have received 14 letters from Amish in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York asking for a long sentence for Mullet.
“I feel he is not safe and fear for the life of our children,” wrote one woman, according to a letter released by prosecutors. The woman's name was not released by the government.