The 66-year-old bishop could face life in prison for his crimes. U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster scheduled sentencing hearings for Jan. 24.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget Brennan said federal sentencing guidelines recommend a minimum of 17 1/2 years for the other 15 defendants given that their crimes involved violence and kidnapping.
But defense attorneys said the judge has the discretion to sentence some of Mullet’s followers to as little as time already served in jail.
A jury of seven men and five women announced the verdicts Thursday afternoon after deliberating for 37 hours over five days.
Defense attorney Edward Bryan, who represented Samuel Mullet during the three-week trial in U.S. District Court, said he was shocked by the jurors’ decision to convict his client, and will appeal.
“There was very little, in fact no evidence, connecting Sam Mullet to any of these matters,” Bryan said. “The government was successful in convincing the jury that he had a Svengali-like influence over these people.”
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said the shearing attacks warranted prosecution in federal court as hate crimes.
“The evidence was that they invaded their homes, physically attacked these people and sheared them almost like animals,” Dettelbach said during a news conference. “Our community and our nation must have zero tolerance for this type of religious intolerance. Religious-motivated violence will not be brushed aside and will not be tolerated.”
The case was the first in Ohio to make use of a landmark 2009 federal law that expanded government powers to prosecute hate crimes. Two weeks of testimony attracted widespread media attention, in part because of the unusual nature of the crimes and because of public curiosity about the historically reclusive and peaceful Amish society.
Federal prosecutors argued that Mullet, the religious and social leader of a breakaway settlement of 18 families in the Jefferson County farming community of Bergholz, considered himself a god and above the law.
Witnesses portrayed the bishop as a fire-and-brimstone preacher and iron-fisted autocrat who imposed strict, and often bizarre, discipline on his flock. He read and censored all incoming and outgoing mail, punished wrongdoers with spankings and confinement in chicken coops, and engaged in sexual relations with several of the young married women under the guise of marital counseling and absolution.
And when members of neighboring Amish communities opposed him, prosecutors said, he unleashed a band of renegades who waged a “campaign of terror” that included the shearing attacks.