The alleged gang of Amish hair-cutters that made headlines this year is standing trial this week, the Associated Press reported. Prosecutors say that the 16 suspects cut the beards and hair of Amish men and women last November.
During opening statements today, Assistant US Attorney Bridget Brennan said that the attackers were followers of bishop Sam Mullet Sr., The Plain Dealer reported. The attackers use electricity and were targeting old-world Amish that still do not use it.
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Brennan said that the attackers barged into one family's house in the middle of the night and yanked a man by his beard into a chair. They cut off his beard, put the hair in a bag and then brought the hair back to Mullet, according to The Plain Dealer.
Mullet is one of the 16 Amish who is facing charges, RNS reported. The prosecution describes him as something of a cult leader. They say that his followers admire him with an "iron fist," according to RNS. In classic, cult-leader fashion, Mullet is also a father of 18 kids and a multimillionaire who has received $2 million for oil fracking rights to his farm, the prosecution alleges.
The hair-cutting attacks are controversial because hair has such significance in Amish culture that the attacks are more humiliating than being beaten up. "The beard for Amish men is a symbol of their adult manhood," a professor told NPR.