Amish teachings include strict rules on their followers' hair and beards.
Credit: Mark Wilson

The ringleader of a breakaway Amish community was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday for forcibly cutting the beards and hair of Ohio community members.

"The victims were terrorized and traumatized," U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster said in sentencing leader Sam Mullet Sr., 67,  ABC News reported.

Mullet Sr. and 15 followers were found guilty last year of federal hate-crime law in what authorities said were the religiously motivated attacks on several fellow Amish people, CNN reported.

Prosecutors alleged the followers, under the direction of Mullet, carried out the attacks in 2011 on Amish people who had left his group over various religious disagreements. 

The court heard that the attackers forced their way 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.

More from GlobalPost: Amish beard-cutting trial begins in Ohio

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 defendants were charged with a hate crime because prosecutors believe religious differences brought about the attacks.

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