The ‘sex counseling’ sessions when Amish beard cutting cult leader ‘bedded his followers’ wives’

Jurors should be allowed to hear about  alleged sexual ‘counseling’ of Amish wives by a man charged with  masterminding beard and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio,  prosecutors told a federal judge on Friday.

They outlined the strategy in a legal brief  in the case of 16 Amish defendants facing trial on August 27 in Cleveland before  U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster.

The government brief said alleged sexual  ‘counseling’ of wives by alleged ringleader, during which he had sex with in  community, ‘establishes the extent of defendant Mullet’s control over the  community’.

‘His ability to convince those women, as well  as their husbands and parents, to permit him to do so,  establishes the extent  of defendant Mullet’s control over the  community,’ the government  said.

Based on that, the government said, the jury  can conclude that Mullet was aware of last year’s attacks and  approved.

In addition to the sexual conduct issues,  alleged paddling rituals and punishing members by sending them to a chicken coop  ‘are not inflammatory; they are undisputed facts’ that the jury should hear, the  government said.

Defense attorneys argued in earlier briefs  that there is no proof of such sexual conduct and said mentioning it at trial  would be prejudicial. They also asked the judge to bar any reference to the  chicken coop punishment or ‘self-deprivation’ such as cold showers or sleeping  on boards.

The recent bizarre attacks have thrust this  ferociously private community into the spotlight, with horror stories emerging  of rape, beatings, brainwashing and kidnapping.

A former member who did not want to be named  spoke out earlier this year about what was happening in the cult, saying: ‘He  would take the wife from the man. The wife would have to go and live with Sam.  The husband of that wife would have to go to the chicken coop or out in the barn in the middle of  the winter, sometimes day and night.’

One of the woman, whose husband Myron Miller  had his beard cut off by the gang earlier this month, said she heard many  stories about the ‘brainwashing, the beatings, the locking up, and the women he  is using’.

Ringleader: Sam Mullet, father of two of the three men arrested for allegedly going into the home of another Amish man and cutting his hair and beard, talks outside his home in Bergholz, Ohio Monday, Oct. 10, 2011 Ringleader: Sam Mullet, father of two of the three men  arrested for allegedly going into the home of another Amish man and cutting his  hair and beard, talks outside his home in Bergholz, Ohio Monday, Oct. 10, 2011  Mullet said he didn’t order the hair-cutting but didn’t stop two of his sons  and another man from carrying it out last week on a 74-year-old man in his home  in rural eastern Ohio. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

In court: A number of Amish men and women appeared at a hearing in Cleveland on Thursday

In court: A number of Amish men and women pleaded not  guilty at a hearing in Cleveland earlier this month

The sexual conduct issues would bias the jury  and lead to a ‘trial within a trial’ unrelated to the charges, the defense  said.

Cutting the beards and hair of men and hair  of women would be considered deeply offensive in Amish culture. The Amish  believe the Bible  instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to stop shaving once they  marry.

Mullet previously said he didn’t order the  hair-cutting but didn’t stop his sons and others from carrying it out. 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.

‘They changed the rulings of our church here,  and they’re trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want  us to do, and we’re not going to do that,’ Mullet said late last  year.

The government said victims were attacked  because they ‘lawfully expressed their disagreement with the practices in the  Bergholz community’ by leaving, by urging relatives to do likewise and by  defying Mullet’s rulings on religious issues.

The defendants face charges including  conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering in what prosecutors said were hate  crimes motivated by religious differences.

Members of the group living in Bergholz  carried out the attacks in September, October and November by forcibly cutting  the beards and hair of Amish men and women and then taking photos to shame them,  authorities have said.

The defendants say the attacks were internal  church disciplinary matters not involving anti-Amish bias. They have pleaded not  guilty and rejected plea bargains that offered leniency.

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