Amish Bishop and the leader of an Amish breakaway group, Samuel Mullet, was convicted Thursday of hate crimes and orchestrating hair and beard-cutting attacks on fellow sect members who opposed his religious differences.
The 66-year old Mullet was found guilty of arranging the cuttings last fall in an attempt to shame those in his community who he believed were straying away from their beliefs. Mullet’s followers were found guilty of following through with the attacks, and can face up to 15 years or more in prison. Mullet is facing up to life in prison.
Cuttings of the beard and hair were targeted because of the spiritual significance they carry in the Amish faith. Federal officials state that the attacks denied the victims their basic religious rights and that the verdicts would send a strong message about religious intolerance.
Members of the community in Bergholz, Ohio fear that the community will be ripped apart and that the children of the defendants will lose guidance in their faith.
Prosecutors told jurors that Mullet considered himself to be above the law and could punish those going against his religious beliefs. Defense attorneys acknowledged that the hair cutting crimes were committed but claim that prosecutors were overreaching by calling them hate crimes.