In the courtroom, Bridget (Meehan) Brennan ’97 serves those who usually aren’t heard
By Molly Bealin ’14
The Jesuit mission calls people to speak out for those on the margins of society, those who are defenseless, and those without a voice. This past August, assistant U.S. attorney Bridget (Meehan) Brennan ’97 answered that call with her work on an Amish hate-crime case.
Last year, Brennan prosecuted 16 defendants for religiously motivated hate crimes. Ohio Amish leader Sam Mullet and 15 of his followers, ranging in age from 24 to 67, violently cut off the beards of nine Amish people who were excommunicated from Mullet’s community. After the beards were cut off, they were sent to the victims’ houses. Mullet claimed the acts were family matters and law enforcement shouldn’t be involved. Brennan argued men’s beards and the way women wear their hair in the Amish community are sacred and symbols of their religious faith. Harm to these objects in any way is a threat to their way of life.
“The crimes happened late at night, the victims were kidnapped, held down, and they cried, so they were violent attacks,” Brennan says. “Sixteen people conspired to commit these crimes, and all 16 were found guilty.”
The victims often were found with physical harm done to them, and the attacks were done sometimes within families. The case gained national attention, appearing on the front page of the New York Times and in the Wall Street Journal.
Brennan works in the division of civil and human rights at BakerHostetler and primarily prosecutes hate and human trafficking crimes. She also worked with St. Paul Croatian Federal Credit Union, which was being defrauded $2.8 million as a result of money laundering and fraudulent conduct. The defendant in the case, a St. Paul employee, is being charged with one count of financial institution fraud, one count of bribery in connection with the business dealings of a financial institution, and two counts of money laundering.
“I tell my kids I put big people in time out,” she says.
Brennan, a sociology major and philosophy minor while at Carroll, knew she wanted to be a lawyer when she was in fifth grade.
“It just seemed to suit my personality,” she says. “I thought of other occupations and looked into other lines of work, but nothing suited me like law.”
After finishing law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 2000, Brennan began work at BakerHostetler. Coming from a Jesuit background inspired her career choice.
“At John Carroll, we are taught we should be in service to others,” she says. “My job is public service. I’m working for the public, defending their best interests, and dealing with the people on the margins of society.” JCU