Amish bishop Samuel Mullet renews quest for release with federal appeals court

Cincinnati, Ohio - Convicted Amish bishop Samuel Mullet today resumed his quest to win release from prison pending the outcome of his appeal on a federal hate crime conviction.

This time, Mullet has taken his case to a higher court -- the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- in an attempt to put an end to conditions he considers cruel and unusual punishment.

In a 21-page motion, Mullet argues that federal prosecutors wielded unconstitutional powers to obtain his conviction, a judge erroneously told the jury that a series of beard- and hair-cutting attacks in 2011 were religiously motivated, and the judge's definition of kidnapping was erroneous.

"The victims in the case were restrained but they were not kidnapped," said Mullet's lawyer, Edward Bryan, in the motion.

If the court of appeals finds that prosecutors used excessive powers, Mullet and his 15 co-defendants could have their hate-crime convictions reversed and the cases dismissed, Bryan told the court. If the court rules that the attacks were not religiously motivated, Mullet and the others could receive new trials, he said. If the element of kidnapping is removed from the charges, Mullet's 15-year prison sentence could be reduced to two years, and he could be released.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office declined to address the specific issues raised in the motion, but predicted Mullet's latest attempt at release would end the same as his previous attempts.

``I will defer to the wisdom of the judges who have repeatedly rejected these requests," said spokesman Mike Tobin.

Mullet previously sought his release from prison based on a claim of cruel and unusual punishment. The 67-year-old bishop has been assigned to a prison in Texarkana, Texas -- located more than 1,000 miles from his family and breakaway Amish farming community in Jefferson County, about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons rejected a request from U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster that Mullet and 15 of his family members and followers be imprisoned closer to home so their families could visit more conveniently.

But earlier this month, Polster turned down Mullet's plea for release, ruling that the law demands Mullet be held in prison, barring special exceptions.

Polster endorsed a jury's verdict that found Mullet and his co-defendants guilty of religious-motivated hate-crimes linked to the beard- and hair-cutting raids launched against his religious enemies and wayward family members.

Bryan acknowledged that the arguments in his latest motion were similar to those contained in the motion filed with Polster. But he is hoping for a more sympathetic ear in the 6th Circuit court, based in Cincinnati.

Bryan also said Mullet does not pose a danger to the community and is not a flight risk.

Bryan criticized the far-flung prison assignments to Mullet and his co-defendants as “deliberate and designed to inflict the maximum hardship possible on the defendants and their families.”

Mullet’s three sons and the other men have been assigned to prisons in Minnesota, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Illinois. The women have been assigned to prisons in Connecticut, Minnesota and Ohio. The others are serving prison terms of one to seven years.

The defendants have spouses and 49 children for whom travel would be financially and logistically difficult, Bryan said. The Amish do not travel by plane and must hire drivers for van travel, he said.

The trial last September attracted international attention due to public curiosity about Ohio’s reclusive Amish community, and because of the peculiar nature of the crimes.