Judge: Jailed Amish cannot attend Ohio wedding
CLEVELAND (AP) — Defendants convicted in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish lost a bid Wednesday to leave jail to attend a family wedding after prosecutors argued they might flee or commit similar attacks while on furlough.
U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster, who presided at the trial of 16 Amish convicted in the attacks, ruled against requests by five of the nine locked-up Amish, who are awaiting sentencing on Feb. 8. Seven other defendants remain free pending sentencing.
The judge agreed with prosecutors that anyone released from jail might become a fugitive or pose a danger to others.
Those asking to attend the Thanksgiving Day wedding in Bergholz in eastern Ohio included two brothers and an uncle of the bride. Prosecutors say the bride and groom are "unindicted co-conspirators" in the case.
In September, a jury convicted the 16 of hate crimes in last year's attacks, which prosecutors say stemmed from religious disputes among Amish. The convictions are being appealed.
The defendants seeking jail furloughs "participated in late-night violent assaults on unsuspecting victims, some of whom were family members," the government said in opposing furloughs. "They have shown no remorse for their conduct and were even recorded talking about how they would have committed even more assaults had they known that they would be arrested."
As for the bride and groom, "Lizzie Mullet and Ferdinand Miller are unindicated co-conspirators — they are not simply relatives of the defendants," prosecutors said.
The government said the bride joked about and discussed the possibility of more assaults in a phone conversation with her jailed brother. According to the government, another recorded conversation showed the groom suggesting to his father that more attacks be carried out.
"If we can get through this, then we can go get more beard hair," Ferdinand Miller said, according to prosecutors.
A defense attorney said he accepted the ruling.
"It was certainly worth the effort to make the motion, but I do understand the judge's concerns," said J. Dean Carro, attorney for Lester Miller, the bride's uncle.
The defense doesn't deny that the hair-cuttings took place. But it contends that the Amish are bound by different rules guided by their religion and that the government shouldn't get involved in what amounted to a family or church dispute.
Sam Mullet Sr., the leader of the group and among those locked up along with two sons who asked for jail furloughs, was convicted of orchestrating the cuttings in an attempt to shame mainstream members he believed were straying from their beliefs.
His followers were found guilty of carrying out the attacks, which terrorized the normally peaceful religious settlements.