CLEVELAND — The leader of a breakaway Amish group charged in beard-cutting attacks against fellow Amish is willing to install electricity at home to permit his pretrial release on electronic monitoring, the defense said, but the government warned Thursday that the issue is risky for his community.
The electronic monitoring suggestion was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by the defense seeking the release of Samuel Mullet Sr., who has said he didn't order the hair-cutting, considered deeply offensive in Amish culture, but didn't stop other people.
Two judges have ordered Mullet and six co-defendants jailed to await trial. Last week the second judge to handle the detention issue said electronic monitoring wasn't an option because Mullet's farm in Bergholz, in eastern Ohio, doesn't have electricity in keeping with Amish practice.
Ohio has an estimated Amish population of just under 61,000, second only to Pennsylvania. Mullet's attorney said the Amish shun electrical appliances, not electricity.
Prosecutors responded by saying electricity isn't the issue.
"We moved to have him and the others detained because they are a threat to the community," U.S. attorney's office spokesman Mike Tobin said in an email.
Public defender Ed Bryan, representing the 66-year-old Mullet, asked Judge Dan Aaron Polster to reconsider his order keeping the defendants locked up. There was no immediate word from court Thursday on whether the judge would re-visit the issue.
The defense filing said it's not uncommon for Amish, whose faith requires a simple and pious life, to own and use electric generators to provide power to tools they use for work and trades.
"Mr. Mullet himself owns an electric generator that he utilizes for work," it said. "Electric appliances that can lead to independence and idle time are the true things shunned by the Amish, not electricity itself."
A feud over church discipline is believed to have led last year to five attacks in which the beards and hair of Amish men and the hair of Amish women were cut.
Mullet said in October that he didn't order the beard- and hair-cutting but didn't stop his sons and others. He said the goal was to send a message to other Amish that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating him and his community.
The seven-count indictment against Mullet and 11 others includes charges of conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering in what prosecutors say were hate crimes motivated by religious differences. Five defendants remain free awaiting trial.
The judge set a March 19 trial date and issued a detailed order on trial arrangements.