Another federal “hate crime” fiasco – Amish beard cutting

posted at 5:31 pm on September 15, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

A trial in Ohio which has been drawing quite a bit of attention has gone to the jury and is now on hold until Tuesday. It deals with a subject which is still rather murky to many Americans, since it involves the closed society of the Amish. In a rural area of the Buckeye State, the patriarch and members of one extended family – the Mullets – stand accused of assaulting other members of the community and cutting off the beards of the men and the long hair of the women. This is a grave offense to the victims, as their hair carries important symbolism to the Amish. The trial has been underway since last month.

The trial of members of a breakaway Amish sect charged with hate crimes for cutting off the beards and hair of other Amish men and women is set to begin Monday in an Ohio court.

The government revealed Friday that horse mane shears, along with hair samples, recorded jailhouse phone calls, and a camera they say was used to photograph the victims have been entered as evidence in the case.

All 16 defendants have pleaded not guilty, many rejecting plea deals that would have sent them to prison for two to three years. They say the alleged attacks were a matter of internal discipline and not connected to any religious bias.

But at least one of the criminal complaints filed against bishop Samuel Mullet Sr. and members of his family claimed that the group was waging a violent campaign targeted at community members on the other side of a church feud.

They now face potentially lengthy federal prison sentences if they are convicted of conspiracy to violate the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

This is yet another “local story” which could have passed under the radar except for the fact that it touches on a much larger and more troubling national problem which we’ve been dealing with for far too long. If the allegations are true, Mr. Mullet (no… there’s no pun coming, so insert your own if you must) and his family are clearly guilty of assault of some sort. There is no excusing the act of dragging a citizen out of their home, holding them down and forcibly cutting their hair against their will. If guilty, they should be punished.

But… a federal “hate crime”? This seems to fail the test of common sense on at least two levels.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I have long been an opponent of the idea of “hate crimes” in any sense in the American legal system and I see no reason to make an exception here. Our legal system is set up to punish people for their actions when they cross the lines we establish as a community and harm or infringe upon the rights of other citizens. But what we should not be empowered to do is to levy additional punishment for what such people are thinking or, for the most part, even saying while committing such acts. The constitution assures us the freedom to think and – in nearly all cases – speak as we choose, even when the vast majority of citizens find such speech disgusting and abhorrent. It’s part of the price of a free society. (I’ve heard all the arguments trying to conflate motive with this and find them unconvincing, so there’s no need to go over it again.) Even if the Mullet family was doing this for reasons of religious persecution, they should stand against the wheel for what they did, not what they were thinking.

But second, and perhaps more to the point, let’s take as a given that we are to accept the notion of “hate crimes” when evaluating this case. If it were really such an attack based on religion, don’t you normally commit a hate crime against members of a religion which you don’t approve of? These were Amish attacking Amish. They aren’t trying to wipe out the Amish, though the Mullets apparently did disapprove of the way the victims were practicing their beliefs.

I fail to see how this is the federal government’s business. The Mullets stand accused of assault of some fashion. State laws almost always give judges some latitude in sentencing. If they feel that the victims in a given case were particularly traumatized above and beyond the norm or that the perpetrator was particularly evil in their actions, they can assign something closer to the maximum sentence. And it can be done without dragging in the feds and re-branding the crime as an exercise in judging the thoughts or speech of the perpetrators.


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Agree totally, Jazz.

Shump on September 15, 2012 at 5:37 PM

If this is a ‘hate crime’, then the US government is guilty of the same for forcibly shaving the Hutterites during WWI.

reddevil on September 15, 2012 at 5:40 PM

There is no excusing the act of dragging a citizen out of their home, holding them down and forcibly cutting their hair against their will.

I recon a troll to post soon…
About Mitt as a youth..

Electrongod on September 15, 2012 at 5:41 PM

Mitt?

Bmore on September 15, 2012 at 5:43 PM

The case of “off with their beards”. This is a weird story. Why did they cut off their beards? They were Amish. That this is Amish vs. Amish is even stranger. Looks like an internal dispute. But the way the attacks were done was clearly motivated by the fact that their target were Amish. If the attackers weren’t Amish, it would be clear cut hate crime. Wonder if the perpetrators affiliations will be a factor on this. I think people who attack others based on their demographic deserve a special place in hell. Sorry, but I support hate crime legislation.

MrX on September 15, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Mitt?

Bmore on September 15, 2012 at 5:43 PM

you aren’t the troll I was expecting :)

Electrongod on September 15, 2012 at 5:44 PM

I’ve been to many sites today; haven’t seen much trolling. I’ve been wondering what lefties are thinking today. The only trolling I’ve seen are LSM articles

skeeterbite on September 15, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Hate crime definition is one step down the slippery slope toward “though-crimes” and suppression of free speech. If someone commits a crime, charge him with the crime: assault, battery, arson, vandalism, etc. Trying to say that one assault was worse than an equivalent assault because the perpetrator harbored “hatred” in his head is silly on its face. It’s either a crime or not.

AZfederalist on September 15, 2012 at 5:45 PM

If “Hating America” was a crime, there is a certain someone that would have lots of ‘splaining to do…

hillsoftx on September 15, 2012 at 5:46 PM

I would think an appropriate punishment would be to force the offenders to keep their own faces and heads shaved for five years. Let the punishment fit the crime. Anyway, all crimes should be treated as just that, crimes.

Rose on September 15, 2012 at 5:46 PM

I don’t know… would it be a terrible thing to let this “hate crime” nonsense hit it’s eventual bottom so everyone can see it for what it’s worth? Amish on Amish hate crime. The “bottom” can’t be far way now.

Hog Wild on September 15, 2012 at 5:47 PM

why doesn’t some federal prosector prosecute a woman who aborts a fetus as a hate crime? she hated the idea of carrying to term!

then the whole hate crime statute could be thrown out on appeal. btw, has the statute made it to the supreme court yet?

Dr. Demento on September 15, 2012 at 5:48 PM

I think I agree Jazz. they should be tried for assault.

gerrym51 on September 15, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Nothing federal about this. A simple state assault.

And if the accused were trying to shame the victims over their practices, wouldn’t that be because they wanted the victims to amend their ways, and thus it was done out of a sense of love, not hate?

rbj on September 15, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Another odd thing here, you have cameras, photography and other items of technology being used in a prosecution against Amish who eschew such things.

AZfederalist on September 15, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Spot on analysis. Note the defendants didn’t call any witnesses, etc. I wonder if their lawyers are banking on the appeals court to overturn because it’s just not a federal issue.

“Hate Crimes” laws are unconstitutional, and should be repealed.

Franklin S on September 15, 2012 at 5:52 PM

Eric Holder compounds his obvious and bizarre biases with his overwhelming stupidity. A poor choice as an appointee.

pat on September 15, 2012 at 5:54 PM

I didn’t know that there were Amish who were black. Learn something new every day.

mbecker908 on September 15, 2012 at 5:55 PM

you aren’t the troll I was expecting :)

Electrongod on September 15, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Sorry, I just figured since the morning coffee boy blamed Mitt for getting in the way of the real story on the violence in the ME. I would get ahead of him on blaming Mitt for this one. I guess blaming Bush is passé. Blaming Romney is the new cool.

Bmore on September 15, 2012 at 5:56 PM

I live in a rural area and there are a lot of Amish people around here. The idea that any of these people would be guilty of a hate crime is insane…absolutely insane.

Terrye on September 15, 2012 at 6:00 PM

There is no excusing the act of dragging a citizen out of their home, holding them down and forcibly cutting their hair against their will.

I recon a troll to post soon…
About Mitt as a youth..

Electrongod on September 15, 2012 at 5:41 PM

Mitt?

Bmore on September 15, 2012 at 5:43 PM

you aren’t the troll I was expecting :)

Electrongod on September 15, 2012 at 5:44 PM

…lol!…Ha!…they’re busy getting groomed!

KOOLAID2 on September 15, 2012 at 6:02 PM

Spot on with “hate crime” designations. Just another way for liberals to make victims feel “special”.

And since the “crime” is in someone’s mind, it leaves WIDE latitude for some cop or prosecutor.

As a supervisor I’d have to review crime reports. On one occasion, an officer indicated the case was a “hate crime” because someone called a Black woman “a blind, stupid bitch” when she backed into their parked car.

GarandFan on September 15, 2012 at 6:19 PM

I wonder, if an Amish person ends up in prison how will their religious rights be respected? What concessions can they expect? I’m not joking. I seriously wonder since they suck up to the muslims. What about the Amish?

Dan_Yul on September 15, 2012 at 6:19 PM

No heads were lost in the application of Mullet discipline.

auspatriotman on September 15, 2012 at 6:22 PM

So, I guess cutting off the hair of Nazi sympathizers/whores at the end of WWII was a hate crime. How times have changed.

OldEnglish on September 15, 2012 at 6:22 PM

I look at this more of a freedom of religion case.

That is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution.

What they did in this case is deny that by taking away their hair their religion required they grow long.

Seems to me a valid hate crime of sorts.

Just seems a bad example of over use of this law.

But like you I question Hate Laws period. But to defend freedom of religion. Almost makes me rethink it.

Steveangell on September 15, 2012 at 6:25 PM

All’s well in the Amish Paradise.

john1schn on September 15, 2012 at 6:25 PM

What is “Hairy” Reid doing in that photo?

onlineanalyst on September 15, 2012 at 6:28 PM

So as a counterpoint, do those opposing hate crime also oppose the definition of murder? First-degree murder requires malice aforethought, which is entirely about the mental state of the perpetrator. Are we also arguing against that? Because murder’s common law definition (which includes state of mind) is many centuries old in our jurisprudence.

ctwelve on September 15, 2012 at 6:30 PM

All’s well in the Amish Paradise.

john1schn on September 15, 2012 at 6:25 PM

LOL!

AZfederalist on September 15, 2012 at 6:43 PM

on the other side of a church feud

The Amish do go to war. And it looks suspiciously like they go to war with pettiness.

So as a counterpoint, do those opposing hate crime also oppose the definition of murder? First-degree murder requires malice aforethought, which is entirely about the mental state of the perpetrator. Are we also arguing against that? Because murder’s common law definition (which includes state of mind) is many centuries old in our jurisprudence.

ctwelve on September 15, 2012 at 6:30 PM

which is entirely about the mental state of the perpetrator

No it isn’t. I’m with Jazz:

(I’ve heard all the arguments trying to conflate motive with this and find them unconvincing, so there’s no need to go over it again.)

… but I’ll go so far as to point out that carrying out a plan to kill someone is not the same crime as accidentally killing them in wrath, is not the same crime as accidentally killing them through neglect, is not the same crime as accidentally killing them with no reason to believe one’s actions would have that effect.

Axe on September 15, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Amish Rake Fighting Association

john1schn on September 15, 2012 at 6:49 PM

Most hate crimes I disagree with.

If a person can receive the maximum penalty anyway there is no point.

Almost all crime involves hate. Is one hate worse than another? Generally that is a difficult question to answer.

But to defend freedom of religion. Perhaps the one valid purpose.

I detest hate crimes to promote an evil lifestyle. Why we really need to define what America is and stands for. Christian and Jewish values only. We should amend the constitution to make that clear. These values protect people of all other faiths. Islam attacks all not Islam. Islam should be illegal in America. Islam is a Hate Crime.

Steveangell on September 15, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Isn’t all crime motivated by some form of hate?

Grace_is_sufficient on September 15, 2012 at 6:53 PM

Amish country gets surprisingly racy anyway.

Axe on September 15, 2012 at 6:55 PM

A must-read by Mark Steyn:

Disgrace In Benghazi

http://predicthistunpredictpast.blogspot.com/2012/09/disgrace-in-benghazi.html

M2RB: Don McLean

Resist We Much on September 15, 2012 at 7:02 PM

clearly guilty of assault of some sort.

Let’s see here – we got home invasion, abduction-kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon – yeah, I suspect that’s of “some sort”. And being that Congress is forbidden by the 1st Amendment from “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion, I suspect such is also not an option to be exercised by a band of thugs.

At any rate, any bunch of goons armed with shears trying to drag me, my family or friends out of our homes better hope the police arrive to take care of them before we do.

whatcat on September 15, 2012 at 7:03 PM

Because murder’s common law definition (which includes state of mind) is many centuries old in our jurisprudence.
ctwelve on September 15, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Yup, “motive” surely helps to seal a case.

whatcat on September 15, 2012 at 7:06 PM

… but I’ll go so far as to point out that carrying out a plan to kill someone is not the same crime as accidentally killing them in wrath, is not the same crime as accidentally killing them through neglect, is not the same crime as accidentally killing them with no reason to believe one’s actions would have that effect.

Axe on September 15, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Fair enough. But there’s still motive involved, which is ultimately about mental state. And since 1st Murder is different precisely because premeditation is involved, this is a crime defined at least partially by intent. In other words, a crime one can only commit with a particular state of mind.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malice_aforethought

That being said I generally oppose hatecrime because it grants powers that are generally unnecessary, and is already being abused by prosecutors. But I’m not convinced on Jazz’s point, because I can think of other crimes impossible without a specific state of mind. Ergo, we’ve long accepted the premise.

ctwelve on September 15, 2012 at 7:07 PM

Here in the Indiana Amish country there are many cases of “internal discipline” when members fail to live up to the standards of the cult sect. Some of these are serious invasions of privacy and even physical assault, and rarely does it make the news, let alone the courts. I’ve seen prosecutors refuse to take a case to court because the victim or the victim’s forgives the perpetrator. Sometimes they do that because the rest of the group would retaliate against them if they did not.

MikeA on September 15, 2012 at 7:08 PM

Just some factoids that might bring clarity…. Amish districts (about 22 families each) are affiliated with one another, with visitation of ministers and bishops. However, individual districts or communities make their own church rules, which for the Amish includes standards of dress, etc. There’s more diversity in these matters from district to district than outsiders realize.

The Mullett group was essentially one family acting as a breakaway Amish district (ala Fred Phelps’ Westboro “Baptist” Church). The signals for a cult of personality were all there, with many transgressive rules and mind games that would be antithetical to biblical beliefs and doctrines as understood by the “real” Amish.

The Mullett district was harrassing the neighboring districts and trying to punish non-Mullett Amish for not meeting the standards of the cult group, although reportedly the real offense was that the Mullett group had been shunned by all the Amish communities in southeast Holmes county.

That a violent cult could form out of an Amish environment is shocking to the locals. It has rocked their world. However you might disagree with the level of grop control within Amish society, it’s important to remember they stress the necessity of a free will choosing to join. The mental and physical coercion practiced by Sam Mullett is topsy turvy to that strongly held belief.

My observation, for what it’s worth, is that local law enforcement loathe the Amish (in part because the Amish “get away with” flouting laws that contradict their beliefs, in everything from housing construction permits to road safety rules), and the Sheriff’s office seemed to take delight in cranking up media attention to this crime by making it – literally – a federal case.

Franklin S on September 15, 2012 at 7:21 PM

I blame racism, Bush, the movie Hair, the Tea Party and all those bible thumpers. Mostly the movie Hair.

dddave on September 15, 2012 at 7:29 PM

Franklin S on September 15, 2012 at 7:21 PM

Thanks for that background info.

whatcat on September 15, 2012 at 7:32 PM

To Each, His Own 9/11: A Tale of Two Tapes

http://predicthistunpredictpast.blogspot.com/2012/09/to-each-his-own-911-tale-of-two-tapes.html

M2RB: Darryl Worley

Resist We Much on September 15, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Another Muslim caught trying to blow up people.
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/09/15/teen-charged-with-trying-to-blow-up-chicago-bar/
But don’t call it a hate crime.

pat on September 15, 2012 at 7:43 PM

Amish Rake Fighting Association
john1schn on September 15, 2012 at 6:49 PM

Heh.
Tangentially related:
Jeopardy: Whats an immoral pleasure seeker?

whatcat on September 15, 2012 at 7:51 PM

This story convinced me to get a haircut today. I feel much better.

Bmore on September 15, 2012 at 7:52 PM

This story convinced me to get a haircut today. I feel much better.

Bmore on September 15, 2012 at 7:52 PM

I wish you wouldn’t have posted that…
You just incited more violence in the ME…

Hillary will blame you for the next round of embassy attacks

Electrongod on September 15, 2012 at 7:56 PM

whatcat – you are welcome!

Franklin S on September 15, 2012 at 7:57 PM

whatcat – you are welcome!
Franklin S on September 15, 2012 at 7:57 PM

Come from personal experience with Amish folk or research?

whatcat on September 15, 2012 at 8:09 PM

Amish country gets surprisingly racy anyway.

Axe on September 15, 2012 at 6:55 PM
.
Yeah, right.

Have you evr seen the logo (T-shirt, I think) that says:

“Virginia may be for lovers, but Pennsylvania has Intercourse.”

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

listens2glenn on September 15, 2012 at 8:27 PM

Hate crimes are easy to allege, and difficult to disprove, so they fit well into the arsenal of a tyrannical government.

GaltBlvnAtty on September 15, 2012 at 8:31 PM

Neighbors and friends. Often the best neighbors to have; some with superior attitudes but a greater number would be the first to admit they are as prone to flaws and failure as the rest of us.

Have you noticed we’re having a disagreement on another thread?

Care for some of this homemade hot sausage Sicilian tomato sauce and GMO-free pasta I’m cookin up for Fourthmeal? LOL

Franklin S on September 15, 2012 at 8:38 PM

Neighbors and friends. Often the best neighbors to have; some with superior attitudes but a greater number would be the first to admit they are as prone to flaws and failure as the rest of us.

Have you noticed we’re having a disagreement on another thread?

Care for some of this homemade hot sausage Sicilian tomato sauce and GMO-free pasta I’m cookin up for Fourthmeal? LOL

Franklin S
on September 15, 2012 at 8:38 PM

.
The family that has kept me employed the last six years is squarely in the “greater number” group. But unfortunately they’re not my neighbors; but I wish they were.
.
I wasn’t the least bit interested in Italian, till I read that last line.

HANG, YEAH; I WANT SOME ! : )

listens2glenn on September 15, 2012 at 8:54 PM

“Hate Crime” is a concept which should be limited to FICTIONAL books!! It should NEVER be incorporated into laws governing a free society.

Judging what is “hate” is always arbitrary and capricious. Since “what is hate” cannot be known in advance, the entire concept is destructive to the orderly functioning of a law-abiding society, and invites oppression and mob rule.

landlines on September 15, 2012 at 9:01 PM

So-called “hate crime” tribunals have always been heresy trials. This case is just the cutting edge of NewLaw: the part where liberals have to finally come out and officially declare that only THEIR religion has rights.

logis on September 15, 2012 at 9:20 PM

Franklin S on September 15, 2012 at 8:38 PM

Excellent summary. From someone else who is fairly aware of the situation, with family nearby: the Mullet group is a bunch of kooks who are like you said–the FLDS of the LDS. They disavow one another, and were excommunicated from the Amish for their ways, and that’s why he wanted revenge. A friend of my relative’s (also Amish) once met one of them at a store, and during their short conversation offered her assistance if she ever needed help. It was curtly rejected. Sam Mullet is a psychopath, and I hope he gets the book thrown at him.

hoosiermama on September 15, 2012 at 9:23 PM

“Hate Crime” is a concept which should be limited to FICTIONAL books!! It should NEVER be incorporated into laws governing a free society.

Judging what is “hate” is always arbitrary and capricious. Since “what is hate” cannot be known in advance, the entire concept is destructive to the orderly functioning of a law-abiding society, and invites oppression and mob rule.

landlines on September 15, 2012 at 9:01 PM

Well, that’s always been the rub. Of course it’s impossible to define an EmotionCrime in anything remotely like objective terms. At first, all the cases are just ad-hoc political hit jobs.

But once the court actually makes up a standardized set of rules for this, then it becomes ThoughtCrime. Just like in the Liberal’s Handbook.

logis on September 15, 2012 at 9:27 PM

Neighbors and friends. Often the best neighbors to have; some with superior attitudes but a greater number would be the first to admit they are as prone to flaws and failure as the rest of us.

Ah, I see. I used to a member of a relatively small evangelical denomination some years back that has a history of having a number of groups splintering off. Never came to blows or shears, lol, just not going to them “other” churches.

Have you noticed we’re having a disagreement on another thread?

I think I razzed ya about Wavy Gravy? That was just a bit silly chain yankin’. hehheh. But, no, I don’t keep track about who/what I agree/disagree with when & where. Everybody experiences that with everyone else in these parts sooner or later!

Care for some of this homemade hot sausage Sicilian tomato sauce and GMO-free pasta I’m cookin up for Fourthmeal? LOL
Franklin S on September 15, 2012 at 8:38 PM

I appreciate the offer, but I only eat food that’s bad for me. I’m old enough not to care and in case it’s my last meal, I’m going out with a whole lotta yummy, yummy dangerous goodies!

whatcat on September 15, 2012 at 9:35 PM

Are Muslims pissed off at us about this or something?

Akzed on September 15, 2012 at 10:01 PM

A hate crime??

You’ve got to be kidding.

On a related topic, did you hear about the girl who got tossed out of the Amish community?

Something about two Mennonite.

:-)

coldwarrior on September 15, 2012 at 10:42 PM

We don’t punish “acts” in this Country. We punish PEOPLE. And people who commit crimes based on irrational animus toward groups pose a greater threat to society than people who commit crimes for more personal reasons. It is little different than punishing someone based on whether his crime was premeditated, intentional, reckless, or merely negligent. Or based on provocation, or diminished capacity, or whathaveyou. We punish the culpable actor, not the act nor the result.

But there are problems with hate crimes laws:

(1) it allows the introduction of prejudicial character evidence that would generally be otherwise inadmissible in proving the underlying conduct, and so evidence of bias should be introduced in a sentencing, not at trial, unless it is sufficiently probative of motive to commit the underlying offense
(2) broad use of power to prosecute federal hate crimes is very likely unconstitutional because it is beyond Congress’s Commerce power and it may undermine a criminal defendant’s right against double jeopardy

But, yes, in this case, it seems absurd. The state court should handle it. And there are plenty of criminal and civil remedies available in state court for the victims in this case.

Dan Minardi on September 15, 2012 at 11:15 PM

Hey Jazz, I’m all for this prosecution of Amish hate-crimes.

So long as the Feds pursue Muslim-on-Muslim Sharia Law hate crimes with the same passion and zeal . . .

BigAlSouth on September 16, 2012 at 7:33 AM

I agree that this is the path to Orwell’s thought police but I do have to point out that in order to establish guilt in a crime, you must prove motive and opportunity. So what people say and their associations are fair game for establishing motive in a crime. However, motive should not be used to heap extra punishment because that’s where you get into Thought Police territory.

Obligatory: Amish Paradise.

Odysseus on September 16, 2012 at 7:33 AM

On a related topic, did you hear about the girl who got tossed out of the Amish community?

Something about two Mennonite.

:-)

coldwarrior on September 15, 2012 at 10:42 PM

I always thought that’s what it took to satisfy an Amish woman.

swinia sutki on September 16, 2012 at 9:51 AM

How many other kinds of laws do we have in this country? We’re supposed to have one law under the constitution for all. The muslims want sharia and apparently the amish want what ever is thought up by the leader in charge of a group at the time. Who knew such a peaceful group could be so violent. hmmmmm.

Kissmygrits on September 16, 2012 at 9:58 AM