Why an Amish bishop could spend the rest of his life in prison

'The Bergholz Boys,' led by Sam Mullet (not pictured) sitting in court in October. (Via The Daily)

‘The Bergholz Boys,’ led by Sam Mullet (not pictured) sitting in court in October. (Via The Daily)

Earlier this year a federal court convicted Sam Mullet, an Amish bishop, of orchestrating a series of hate crimes. Mullet, his sons, and other members of their community attacked other Amish sects nearby in Ohio and forcibly shaved the beards off men and cut the hair of women. For the Amish, that amounts to an embarrassment equated to castration.

Mullet was also accused of ruling his 120-follower Amish community through methods of intimidation that one former follower compared to the methods used before the Jonestown Massacre. The bishop allegedly offered sex counseling for Amish couples, although the therapy sessions reportedly amounted to Mullet telling the man in the relationship he’d be going to bed with his wife.

The Daily published a phenomenal interview and in-depth analysis of Mullet’s methods, the reaction, and how the Amish leader – who is up against a life sentence – is holding up in prison.

An excerpt from A Bishop Behind Bars follows, click here for the rest.

Among his fellow inmates at Northern Ohio Correctional Center, the towering 67-year-old with wire-rimmed glasses, pudding-bowl haircut and retro facial hair is known simply as “O.G.”

While the term — street shorthand for “original gangster” — was unfamiliar to Mullet, he could sense that it was a compliment bestowed from across cultural lines.

“They’re calling me O.G.,” he said, smiling. “I don’t know what it means, but I guess it means something good.”

Unexpected honorific aside, he didn’t pretend to be comfortable in his new home. “I’m a stranger here. Plus Amish to boot,” he told The Daily last month in the first in-depth interview he has ever given. “How would you feel coming to Amish country and being locked up? You see guys in here with all kinds of dress and all kinds of hairstyles, but I’m the one that’s weird and sticking out.”

He told of having trouble falling asleep in his early days behind bars, kept awake by obscenity-laced banter that went on well into the night — and how his response stunned and charmed his fellow prisoners.

“At night when we had lockdown, they turned out the lights and some of the guys would holler back and forth, sometimes just cussing and screaming and carrying on for hours,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep.”

He began to feel an irrepressible longing to drown out the noise with the songs he had been singing since his boyhood.

“I decided I’m going to sing,” he said. “I didn’t know how they’d take it, and I was ashamed at first. And the first time I sang very low.”

In the dark prison, he began singing traditional Christian songs. One of his favorites was “Rank Stranger,” a tune about a man trying to get home but who finds himself lost in an unfamiliar land where he doesn’t recognize a soul.

To his surprise, the response of his cellblock mates was not abuse or mockery.

“They heard me singing softly, and then they wanted me to sing louder,” he said. “Now some of the guys come to my cell and they want me to sing every night. They’d come into my cell and listen to me just before we had lockdown. They said it made them sleep good.”


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