An Amish group gathered for the last time before some of its members’ prison terms begin. While the group gathered to celebrate the end of their school year, it was difficult to spot a smile.
The only raised voices were the children singing. The ceremony normally takes place in late April, but this school year was cut short to allow children more time with their family before some parents head off to federal prison.
Nine of the 16 defendants are already in jail. They have been convicted of hate crimes for hair- and beard-cutting attacks against their fellow Amish. Martha Mullet, whose husband Sam Mullet Sr. is already in jail, stated:
“It’s a happy day on the outside, but not on the inside. On the inside, a lot of times we’re crying, but we have to keep our spirits up for the children’s sake.”
Sam was sentenced to 15 years, the longest prison term for any of the 16 defendents. On Friday, five more of the tight-knit group in eastern Ohio will enter the prison system in various states. The latest group includes four women and one man. The nine already in jail are all men.
Many in the close Amish community believe the government is trying to break them apart. Members are determined to ensure the survival of the small breakaway group Mullet founded. Sam Mullet Sr. was accused of orchestrating the hair-cutting attacks. The accusations led to his longer prison term.
Victims of the attacks alleged that Mullet led an authoritarian style. At least one person described the group as a cult, in which members’ “minds were programmed in the wrong way by Sam Mullet.”
While the defendants haven’t denied the attacks, they claim that they stemmed from family disputes, not from religious differences. The group added that the attacks and repercussions should have been handled internally. They added that they are bound by different rules, which are guided by their religion. Because of this, they believe the government had no business interfering in the case.
The Amish group’s prison terms will leave almost three dozen children without one or both parents. While the parents are gone, the community has pledged to take in the children. The adults’ prison terms range from one to 15 years.