Nov. 23, 2011— -- Seven Amish men have been charged with hate crimes for cutting the beards and hair of Amish men in a different religious sect.
The men, all family members of bishop Samuel Mullet, Sr., allegedly forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut their beards and hair with scissors and battery powered clippers, injuring the men and others who tried to stop the attacks, according to a statement by the Department of Justice.
The attacks grew out of a religious feud between Mullet and the wider church, according to the criminal complaint against the Mullet family.
Mullet, as the head of the Bergholz clan sect of the church, excommunicated eight families who chose to leave the sect under his rule. His decision was investigated by the 300-member bishops council of the Amish church, which determined that the excommunications were vindictive and unfair, and overruled them.
The members allegedly began leaving the sect in 2005 because of Mullet's controlling behavior, according tot he complaint. Mullet's former daughter-in-law and son-in-law told investigators that Mullet exercised complete control over the group, causing physical injury to those who defy him, including forcing members to sleep for days at a time in a chicken coop on his property and allowing public beatings. He also allegedly "counseled" married women by having sex with them in his home.
Mullet, accompanied by his sons, sons-in-law, and nephews, hired a driver to take them and their horse-drawn buggy to the home of one of the bishops that ruled against him. They knocked on the door and told the man they wished to speak with him, according to the complaint, and then assaulted the man and his son, known as Victims 1 and 2. They then pulled and cut their beard hair. They took pictures of the results and took the pictures with them, the document says.
The group then went to another victim's house and assaulted him, caused him pain, and then pulled and cut his hair as well, court documents state.
The hired driver that took the men to committ the crimes testified as a witness against them in the complaint.
Mullet's son-in-law, Emanuel Shrock, sent three letters to a fourth victim, convincing him to come to Shrock's home in Bergholz, Ohio, and then with the aid of others cut that victim's beard as well.
Johnny Mullet, Lester Mullet, Eli Miller, Daniel Mullet, and Levi Miller all confessed their involvement in the crimes to the FBI.
The suspects are charged with conspiring to violate the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.