CLEVELAND — A fierce legal battle is heating up between controversial Amish leader Sam Mullet and federal prosecutors over revelations that Mullet is a multi-millionaire.
Yet, the shunned sect leader has been represented since last October by a public defender, paid for by taxpayers.
Prosecutors said Mullet, 66, declared war on his fellow Amish bishops, after they voted to shun Mullet and his followers, amid allegations that include sexual abuse in a small enclave that Mullet founded in Bergholz, Ohio.
Mullet is accused of ordering his followers to break into the homes of his critics and cut off their beards and the hair of their wives, which to the Amish, is considered degrading and a sign of disrespect.
Investigators contend the attacks were religious-based hate crimes.
According to a complaint filed by federal authorities, Mullet is not your average Amish farmer.
They maintain he has received more than $2 million for oil rights on his 800 acre farm, but continued to be represented in the federal case by a public defender.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla has been investigating the Mullet clan for the past five years, and estimates the shunned bishop’s net worth to be between $4 and 6 million.
He calls Mullet’s use of a public defender a disgrace.
Sheriff Abdalla told Fox 8 News, “It wouldn’t be fair at all and it takes a lot of nerve for him to ask for the taxpayers to pay his attorney fees, when he has that much money, but I’m glad the government brought it to the attention and are addressing it.”
Federal investigators believe Mullet may be using his wealth to try and influence the outcome of the case.
They contend his wife recently offered to pay one of Mullet’s sons, who is a potential trial witness, $60,000 in cash to pay off his mortgage.
According to Abdalla, “It doesn’t surprise me, that he would try that but I don’t think these family members are going to go along with that, if that’s the case.”
In the new court filing, prosecutors are also asking a federal judge to keep Sam Mullet in jail, pending his trial because they consider him a threat to his fellow Amish and to law enforcement, if he is allowed to return to his farm.
The court documents include letters to the court from Amish community leaders, who say they continue to live in fear of Mullet.
“He was like the prophet Elijah, and he had also made mention of that he had a dream and God handed him a gun, to take care of his enemies,” said Abdalla. “He’s dangerous, these people were afraid of him. Why he did it, they spoke out against him.”