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I’m With Stupid – June 24, 2011

by Todd Hartley

Before I get too far into this week’s column, I want to say that I’ve always admired the Amish. I think it’s awesome that a group of people can live the way they do in this day and age. I know for a fact that if I tried to live that way, I’d make it about as long as it took for me to get hungry, which, depending on when I last ate, is usually about a half-hour or so. At that point, faced with a choice of eating raw fruits and vegetables (which goes against my stated goal of eventually dying of scurvy) or chopping wood to stoke the oven, I’d abandon my attempt and head for the nearest Taco Bell.

Somehow, though, the Amish are able to live without microwave ovens and refrigerators – not to mention Taco Bell – and I find that incredibly impressive. I honestly do. So please keep in mind as you read on that I’m by no means trying to make fun of the Amish lifestyle. And I’m not just saying that because I’m afraid the Amish might take offense to my words and try to exact some sort of bloody revenge. I mean, let’s face it, my column appears in a newspaper and online, meaning the chances that an Amish person will ever read this are essentially nil.

As much as I admire the Amish, however, I find it really, really funny when they make the news for breaking the law. Not that breaking the law is necessarily humorous, mind you. It’s just that when a crime involves the Amish, which, thankfully, doesn’t seem to happen very often, it can’t help but have a comical element to it.

The first criminal case involving the Amish that I can remember reading about took place back in 1998. The story involved the indictment of several members of the Pagans motorcycle club in Chester County, Pa., for allegedly trying to sell cocaine to local Amish youth groups. To help them distribute the drugs, the Pagans recruited two young Amish men, who were also indicted.

So what’s funny about selling drugs to kids? Nothing, admittedly, but here’s the part that I found humorous: both Amish men arrested in the investigation – and I swear I’m not making this up – were named Abner. (What are the odds?) In fact, both men, though not related, were named Abner Stoltzfus, and both were from Gap, Pa. I’m not quite sure what that says about the Amish gene pool, but it can’t be good.

Amish criminals were back in the news again earlier this month when it was reported that an Amish man from Rush County, Ind., 21-year-old William R. Yoder, was arrested for trying to have sex with a 12-year-old girl with whom he’d been “sexting.” Sexting, for those of you who don’t follow the news, means sending someone sexually explicit cell phone messages, which one doesn’t generally associate with Amish folk.

The story goes something like this: Yoder, whose particular Amish community allows the use of cell phones for professional purposes (I’m not sure how that doesn’t make them Mennonites), somehow made the girl’s acquaintance and sent her hundreds of video messages, lewd text messages and naked pictures of himself. The girl alerted her parents, and a sting operation was arranged.

On June 15, Yoder, driving a pimped-out horse and buggy, showed up at the Takathemoke Restaurant in Milroy, Ind., for what he hoped would be a sexual liaison with the 12-year-old. Instead, he approached an undercover agent, who confirmed his identity and took him into custody without incident, whereupon Yoder admitted to arranging the rendezvous in order to have sex with the girl.

While Yoder’s community allows the use of cell phones, it does not allow the use of televisions or computers, so Yoder should be forgiven for not having seen “To Catch a Predator” or being aware of current events that have made it clear how much trouble one can get into for sexting. He should not, however, be forgiven for trying to have sex with a 12-year-old, which even an Amish person should know is wrong.

Yoder’s case will go to trial in September, at which point he’ll likely be shunned by the Amish community and serve time in prison. Thus far, he hasn’t indicated what he might do when he gets out, but if I could make a suggestion, I’d like to encourage him to run for Congress.

Todd Hartley is hungry again. Fire up the butter churn.

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