No prison time for two Amish men from Seymour who pleaded guilty to molesting relative

By Gregory J. Holman
Springfield News-Leader
September 16, 2020

Two men from rural Seymour pleaded guilty last week to charges stemming from accusations that they had sex with a young female relative. 

As part of a plea agreement, the two men, who are brothers from an Amish family, will not go to prison, according to online court records and reporting by the Webster County Citizen.

The brothers, 22-year-old Aaron C.M. Schwartz and 18-year-old Petie C.M. Schwartz, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of third-degree child molestation. Each received prison sentences totaling 15 years, which were suspended.

According to the local newspaper report published Wednesday morning, Webster County Prosecutor Ben Berkstresser said the victim — a minor who was in her very early teens when the crimes occurred — had a baby in recent weeks fathered by one of her assailants, who included two other unnamed brothers who are minors.

The News-Leader reached out to Berkstresser multiple times by phone and email on Wednesday but did not receive a response; the same is true for Will Worsham, a Springfield-based attorney representing the Seymour men.

The Citizen reported that initially, the brothers were each charged with six felony counts of statutory rape and one felony count of incest. Charges were filed in June, according to court records.

Rather than prison, both brothers received five years' probation and must complete a sex offender treatment program in the next year. They must complete 100 hours of community service and pay $250 to the Law Enforcement Restitution Fund, online court records show. Each must also write an apology letter to the Amish community in Seymour within 30 days.

Berkstresser told the Webster County newspaper that if the brothers failed to complete the sex offender program as outlined in the agreement, they could be sent to prison. Berkstresser also reportedly said he was aware that the plea agreement and its accompanying sentences would prompt criticism from the local community.

Two additional brothers, both of whom are minor children, were also involved in the case, Berkstresser told the local newspaper.

“All of them had sexual relations with (the under-aged female relative)," Berkstresser reportedly said. "There is no question this occurred.”

Berkstresser also reportedly said, "In the end, this wasn’t a case of a parent and child, where a parent in a position of authority sexually abused or exploited their child,” he said. "This was a situation where four siblings engaged in acts with (a young relative). I offered a 15-year prison sentence based on this ... it was a different relationship."

Referring to the suspended prison sentence, Berkstresser told the Citizen, "These two young men would’ve been eaten alive in the state prison system."

Contacted by the News-Leader as to whether the state prison system can guarantee inmate safety based on inmate's religious or community background, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Corrections stated in an email that the department "does not play a role in sentencing and cannot comment on this case."

Berkstresser, in comments reported by the Webster County Citizen, noted that the brothers will be registered sex offenders for life. He also said that in the past he had been "very harsh on the Amish when they’ve been charged with crimes of this nature."

Both the Missouri and the United States constitutions provide for equality under law, regardless of religion.

“The only reason we knew of this was because the (young girl) got pregnant, and a doctor found out and hotlined it,” Berkstresser reportedly told the Citizen.

The Amish are members of a traditionalist Christian sect that settled in North America beginning roughly 300 years ago. Members of their communities tend to live in rural areas and avoid many modern technologies.



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