'Amish Mafia,' Bending Rules in Centuries-Old Amish Lifestyle

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Esther's "other side" is well-documented on "Amish Mafia" -- a show she and her family don't watch because they don't own a TV -- though, she says, with every generation, the rules are beginning to bend.

"The outside world looks at an Amish community as a whole and that we're all the same, and that we are these humble people who don't have anything," she said. "We would never dress in jeans. We would never have cell phones. We would never have Internet access ... when, in reality, 90 percent of Amish kids have all those things."

That was the case in one Amish home "Nightline" visited, where a teenager named Allen, who goes by his nickname, "Flip," had electricity, a Playstation, a laptop and air conditioning in his bedroom -- items his parents allow him to have during their son's Rumschpringa. The rest of the house kept strict Amish tradition -- a bed, dresser and a Bible were all that adorned his parents' bedroom.

Much of "Amish Mafia's" content, depictions and characters are strongly criticized by Amish scholars who say it simply isn't true. But not everyone sees it that way.

"It's not contrived. It's not made up," said Steve Breit, a criminal defense attorney in Lancaster County. "The individuals on the show that I've represented have committed some serious criminal activity."

Another character on "Amish Mafia" is Merlin, portrayed as being from a more traditional and old order community of Amish in Ohio, where he, too, has the same role as Levi. On the show, Merlin spends his days trying to oust Levi from power.

Some in the community accused Merlin of setting Levi's office on fire -- something he denied. But he did say he had been indicted on felony drug trafficking charges, although he was reluctant to give further details.

"I'm not trafficking," he said. "I'm living a clean life, a happy life and helping the community."

Breit said the bulk of his practice is representing Amish youth who are in trouble.

"Every year, I'll see an increase of several Amish clients a year, and whether it's for mainstream criminal activity, such as the alcohol use ... the marijuana abuse, and it's other crimes such as theft and things of that nature, as well," he said. "By numbers, they're doing the same amount of this type of activity that mainstream American kids are doing today."

So perhaps, if this show is really reality TV, the centuries-old "plain" lifestyle is a far cry from what it used to be.

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