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No Leniency For Amish Hair-Shearing Culprits


The Amish community is one of the most fascinating and reclusive subsets of American culture. Their unusual habits, strict moral guidelines, and dress all garner attention.  The fact that they remain reclusive and largely self-sufficient from the rest of the United States makes them a group of immense interest.  Although almost all intra-community disputes are resolved within the community, a rare chance for the U.S. legal system to mediate an Amish community dispute has granted the world unprecedented access to their inner workings.


 A small, 140 people, Amish community in Bergholz, Ohio is the center of the scandal. 16 community members, allegedly under the master plan of community elder and Bishop Samuel Mullet, attacked and forcibly shaved and the cut the hair of other community members.  Beards on men and long hair on women are a sign of honor among the Amish, so removing them was an act intended to shame certain members of the community.  The defendants have said that the event was escalated from an internal dispute that got out of hand. 


The legal battle is groundbreaking not only because it allows a rare intimate look into life in the Amish community, but it is also legally significant.  Legal scholars believe this case will set an important precedent for the U.S. legal system handles internal community disputes.  The Amish have a long history of handling internal disputes within the community only, so the fact that the wronged party reached out to the U.S. legal system for help is a sign of the severity of the crime.  The defense has asked for leniency since there was no serious harm done to any victims.  The prosecution argues that for the community’s code of conduct, very serious and irreparable harm was done. The case will set an important precedent because it will set a guideline on how the U.S. legal system ought to deal with resolving an internal community dispute. 


Currently, the 16 community members have been found guilty.  They are awaiting sentencing.  8 perpetrators are waiting in the Youngstown, PA Federal prison, including the elder and Bishop Samuel Mullet.  Mullet is said to still be leading the community from prison, although his sons have stepped up to complete many of the necessary tasks at home. The rest of the perpetrators are out on bail and residing in their hometown of Bergholz for the time being.  Because the actual crime being decided by the judge is forcible restraint of the victims, the sentence could vary widely from a slap on the wrist to life in prison.  The weight of this case could go either way- either pushing for lighter sentence because it’s an internal dispute, or pushing for harsher sentencing because the ramifications of the crime committed carry such serious ramifications within the community. 


This legal battle has been interested both because of its historical legal significance and its exposure into the isolated Amish community in America.  The sentencing will reveal a great deal about how the U.S government with resolve disputes between social subsets.


Story by MPR News



City: Minnesota