U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster Sentences Amish Beard Cutters

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster
Dan A. Polster was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1951. He graduated with an A.B. from Harvard College in 1972 and earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1976. From 1976 until 1982, he served as a trial lawyer in the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice. From 1982 until 1998, Dan worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Ohio.

On July 31, 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed Dan to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The United States Senate confirmed the judge and he received his commission on August 3, 1998.

Judge Dan A. Polster Rules Against Amish Sect Leader Samuel Mullet

On Friday, February 8, 2013, Judge Dan Aaron Polster sentenced Amish sect leader Samuel Mullet Sr., 67, to fifteen years in prison for directing a series of hair- and beard-cutting assaults against other Ohio Amish. According to The New York Times article, "Amish Sect Leader Sentenced to 15 Years in Hair-Cutting Attacks," prosecutors believe Mullet's attacks against other Ohio Amish was motivated by religious fanaticism. Fifteen of Mullet's followers were also sentenced for assaulting members of the Amish community. Each assailant, which included six women, received sentences ranging from one to seven years in prison.

The Huffington Post editorial, "Amish Beard Cutters Sentenced Friday," explains that Judge Polster told Mullet and his co-defendants that they infringed on the constitutional rights safeguarding religious practices when they decided to harm individuals due to religious intolerance. Before the judge delivered his ruling, Mullet told Polster he had been indicted for managing a cult. Mullet continued to tell the judge that if his community is viewed as a cult, "Then I'm going to take the punishment for everybody."

The New York Times column noted that Mullet began coordinating assaults in 2011. The Amish communities in eastern Ohio were frightened since the followers of Mullet invaded their homes and restrained women and men, so they could shave their victims. The perpetrators were known to use tools that were meant to clip horse manes.

The Huffington Post article quoted Polster when he stated, "The victims were terrorized and traumatized." The courtroom remained silent when Mullet told the judge he has lived his life trying to assist people. The Amish sect leader said, "That's been my goal all my life."

The New York Times editorial also covers what Mullet said to Judge Polster. Mullet requested the judge to give him the punishment for the co-defendants, which included four married couples. Mullet asserted, "Let these moms and dads go home to their families, raise their children, I'll take the punishment for everybody." The article also points out that even though Mullet is an Amish bishop, his harsh personality and rigid interpretation of his faith caused many Amish to distance themselves from the bishop. Mullet resides near the town of Bergholz and he supervises eighteen families.

According to The Huffington Post, federal prosecutor Bridget Brennan insisted that Judge Polster punish the Amish bishop adequately. She told the judge, "He is a danger to this community. He is capable of controlling 15 defendants." The article also covers U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach's reaction over Mullet's sentencing. His office led the prosecution. The U.S. Attorney said, "I think the sentence he got was harsh; I think it was appropriately harsh. Mr. Mullet's conduct in court today reiterated yet again his utter failure to respect the rule of law and his utter lack of remorse."

The Huffington Post mentions that Polster gave defense attorneys two weeks to file appeals on behalf of their clients. The editorial stated that nine of ten men who were accused of the assaults are in prison and are awaiting sentencing. The six Amish women have been released on bond.

According to The New York Times column, while Judge Polster delivered his ruling, he said Mullet administered his followers with "an iron hand" and that the bishop was "a danger to the community." The editorial also discusses Dettelbach's memo. The U.S. Attorney said Mullet was accountable for the assaults since he advised Amish members that "Amish hypocrites" must be disciplined. Dettelbach stated that he was please with the amount of prison time given to the defendants. He said, "In court today, sitting there and watching defendant after defendant after defendant stand and say they would yet again sacrifice years of their lives so Mr. Mullet would not have to be punished, proved the court judge was absolutely right in characterizing Mr. Mullet's control over these people. Whether or not you call that a cult is none of my business."

The New York Times editorial emphasized that throughout Mullet's case, 135 members of his community supported him. His flock promises to distance themselves from other Amish, whom they criticize for playing musical instruments, smoking and drinking.

Harvard Law School.


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