AP Exclusive: Amish gather before prison terms

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm •  Published: April 10, 2013
Advertisement
;

All 16 defendants appealed, arguing the group's conviction, sentencing and imprisonment in separate facilities as far away as Louisiana, Minnesota and Connecticut violates constitutional rights and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Prosecutors reject that argument.

The defendants say the distance to the facilities is too great to travel by horse-drawn buggy or even by using a hired driver, so most of their families likely won't be able to visit. They plan to keep in touch through letters and occasional phone calls.

Prosecutors say the Amish are raising issues already dealt with by the courts, most recently on Tuesday, when a federal judge refused to release Mullet Sr. on bond. The ruling noted prison officials, not the courts, determine where to place inmates.

The five reporting to prison Friday said they are somewhat scared and unsure what to expect but are hopeful about being released early for good behavior. They're sewing clothes, plowing ground and finishing other chores to make life easier for their loved ones while they're gone. Two women, assigned to prisons in Minnesota, were bracing for their first plane ride.

Their departure will leave nearly three dozen children without one or both parents in a culture where the men and women have distinct roles, so the adults made alternative arrangements.

Linda and Emanuel Schrock's oldest children will look after the younger ones while the Schrocks are imprisoned over the next two years. The spouses of Anna Miller and Freeman Burkholder and the 15 children combined from the two families will act as one household while Miller and Burkholder serve one-year sentences. Their spouses are brother and sister, and the children all cousins.

Lovina Miller is beginning a similar sentence and giving Martha Mullet custody of her eight children until she returns because her husband is in Massachusetts on a seven-year sentence.

Before the trial, the Amish rejected plea agreements that offered leniency and might have helped young mothers avoid prison.

Several said Tuesday that they rejected deals either because they didn't want to admit guilt to a hate crime charge or they didn't want to testify against Mullet Sr. and say things they don't believe.

The community members say they're working together to ensure the group perseveres by handling chores that would have been the responsibility of the incarcerated members. The remaining men especially plan to bear the burden of extra work, making home repairs and fixing fences and handling planting and harvesting. A 19-year-old grandson has taken over running Sam Mullet's 700-acre farm.

"It's hard, but I'm still surprised we can do as good as we do," said Emma Miller, who leaves Friday for a prison in West Virginia.

She and the other new inmates also face big changes as they adjust to prison life. The women can wear jumper dresses, and they hope to continue wearing head scarves. Under the prison rules, the men can keep their beards.

___

Find Kantele Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10 .