September 6 2012
– An Amish man accused of cutting the beards and hair of fellow Amish men in a violent hate crime said he would have sliced off more if he knew he was going to be caught, a detective has claimed.
Levi Miller, one of the 16 defendants accused of the beard-cutting attacks in northeast Ohio last year, allegedly admitted to being sorry as he had been involved and because he was caught.
Holmes County Detective Joe Mullet recounted Miller’s words as he testified against the men in Cleveland federal court on Wednesday.
The defendants, members of a breakaway Amish group from Steubenville, are accused of staging five attacks between September and November last year as ‘punishment’ for the victims.
In court, the county sheriff, Timothy Zimmerly, recalled the horror among residents after finding their community leader had his beard and hair cut by the men in a nighttime home invasion.
‘There was a lot of screaming and yelling go on,’ he told the court.
Zimmerly said last October he went to the home of an Amish bishop whose beard was cut short and saw the man’s hair was unevenly chopped to the scalp, leaving it bloody.
‘There was a lot of hair laying on the floor,’ he testified as Amish watched from the public gallery. ‘They were excited, very upset.’
The government calls the attacks religion-based hate crimes meant to humiliate Amish who cite Scripture in keeping beards after they are married and, for women, growing their hair long.
Community: Amish leave the Cleveland, Ohio federal courthouse where the case began last week
Support: Women leave the court, where 16 members of the community stand trial for cutting hair
But the defense has tried to portray the attacks as internal church disciplinary matters, not a religion-based hate crime as prosecutors argue.
‘Ringleader’: Sam Mullet, Sr. is accused of staging the attacks in a response to criticism of his leadership
Defense attorneys questioned Zimmerly about how accused ringleader, Sam Mullet Sr., escorted his son and nephew when they surrendered, apparently to show he had cooperated with police.
The trial started last week and could last several weeks.
The charges include conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering in Steubenville, eastern Ohio farm country.
Those accused of planning and taking part in the attacks targeted the hair and beards of Amish bishops as it has spiritual significance for the faith, prosecutors said.
Such hair-cutting attacks are offensive to the Amish because they believe women let their hair grow long and men to grow beards after marriage to show devotion to God.
Prosecutors said there were five separate attacks last year, orchestrated by Mullet. All the defendants could face lengthy prison terms if convicted on charges.
Mullet has denied ordering the hair-cutting but said he didn’t stop anyone from carrying it out.
Last year he said that the hair-cutting was a response to criticism of his leadership from other Amish bishops.
‘They changed the rulings of our church here, and they’re trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we’re not going to do that,’ Mullet said.
On trial: Miller (second right) sits next to, from left, Johnny Mullet, Lester Mullet, Daniel Mullet and his son Eli Miller in court in Millersburg, Ohio last year. They are all charged with teh hate crimes
Attorneys for the defendants have not denied the hair cuttings took place and said members of the group took action as they were concerned that some Amish were straying from their beliefs.
They also contended that the Amish are bound by different rules guided by their religion and that the government should not get involved in what amounted to a family or church dispute.