Samuel Mullet, the leader of an Amish sect in Berholtz, Ohio, and 15 followers were convicted today on federal hate crimes charges for cutting the beards and hair of nine Amish men and women in a series of assaults last fall, Reuters reported.
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According to the New York Times:
Although Mr. Mullet did not directly participate in the attacks, prosecutors labeled him the mastermind of the assaults, in which groups of his followers held down victims and sheared their beards and hair.
Long beards and uncut hair are a symbol of righteousness among married Amish men and women, according to Reuters.
Prosecutors said the attacks were designed to humiliate members of eastern Ohio’s Amish community who had left Mullet’s settlement or refused to shun his enemies, the New York Times reported.
While the defendants did not deny they forcibly cut their victims’ hair, their lawyers argued that the attacks were not religiously motivated hate crimes, the New York Times reported. Instead, defense attorneys claimed, the victims had been attacked during disputes over family or money, Reuters reported.
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Mullet and his followers face prison sentences of at least 210 months each, Reuters reported. They are scheduled to be sentenced in January.