Judge: Feds can raise sex issues at trial of Amish

August 20, 2012 - 7:36 PM

CLEVELAND (AP) — Prosecutors will be able to tell jurors about alleged sexual "counseling" of Amish wives by a man charged with masterminding beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

It means testimony about Samuel Mullet Sr.'s sexual activities with married women will be allowed during a trial scheduled to start next week, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported.

Prosecutors had outlined the strategy in a legal brief in the case of 16 Amish defendants accused of forcibly cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women in September, October and November of last year, then taking photos to shame them.

The government said alleged sexual "counseling" of wives by Mullet shows the control he had over followers at their eastern Ohio farm complex. It said based on that, the jury can conclude Mullet was aware of the attacks and approved.

The newspaper reported prosecutors said several women plan to testify about having sexual relations with Mullet.

Defense attorneys for Mullet argued in earlier briefs there is no proof of such sexual conduct and that mentioning it at trial would be highly prejudicial.

The victims had left Mullet's Bergholz community and defied his rulings on religious issues, according to the government. They also urged relatives to do the same.

The defendants say their actions were a matter of church discipline. Mullet previously said he didn't order the hair-cutting but didn't stop his sons and others from carrying it out because he wanted to send a message to other Amish that they should be ashamed for the way they treated him and his community.

The defendants face trial Aug. 27 in Cleveland.

Cutting a man's beard or a woman's hair is considered highly offensive to the Amish, a deeply traditional religious group that avoids most modern conveniences.