Conflict arose last fall between an Amish sect led by Samuel Mullet Sr. in Bergholz, Ohio, and other Amish sects who had taken in followers that Mullet previously excommunicated from his community. Mullet and 15 of his followers were accused and convicted of at least one charge in a string of hate crime and conspiracy allegations. The attacks in question involved a series of assaults in which attackers held down the victims, and hacked off their facial hair with shears, scissors, and other cutting implements. It is Amish tradition for women and married men to refrain from trimming hair or beards. The act of actively not cutting hair is a symbolic of Amish religious identity, and a central piece of leading a worshipful life. Prosecutors argued that removing this identity constituted a hate crime, while defense attorneys insisted that life in prison was not an appropriate sentence for what amounted to minor injuries cuts akin to nicks and cuts from shaving to the victim’s faces.
After five days of deliberation, jurors convicted Mullet of seven of the nine charges against him, even though he was not present for any of the attacks. The prosecution presented recorded phone calls in which Mullet and his followers joked about the beard-cutting, and planned more attacks. Witnesses for the prosecution provided testimony confirming that the attacks were discussed openly among Mullet’s sect. They further testified that pictures and cut hair were used as trophies to show Mullet. The use of photographs as trophies is interesting considering that many Amish shun the use of cameras because photos break a biblical ban on graven images. Though Mullet did not carry out any attacks, he was convicted of encouraging and helping to plan them. The defense called no witnesses.
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scheduled with Judge Dan Polster for January 24th, with a federal guideline recommending 210 months , or 17.5 years, in prison for committing hate crimes. The defense attorneys intend to appeal the convictions, claiming that the assaults stemmed from family and financial disputes –not religious differences- thus did not fall under the jurisdiction of hate crimes.