Amish sect found guilty of hate crimes in beard cutting
The leader of a breakaway Amish group and 15 followers were convicted of hate crimes in the US state of Ohio for a series of beard-cutting attacks against rivals in the community.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday argued that Samuel Mullet — who considered himself a god above the law — unleashed a band of renegades who waged a “campaign of terror” against nine religious enemies and estranged family members last year.
“The evidence was that they invaded their homes, physically attacked these people and sheared them almost like animals,” said US Attorney Steven Dettelbach.
“Our community and our nation must have zero tolerance for this type of religious intolerance.”
The five separate raids were mainly carried out at night, with the victims forced out of bed, their beards and hair chopped off with horse mane shears and battery-powered clippers, and the roughshod barber work documented with embarrassing snapshots on a disposable camera.
Beards and long hair are sacred symbols of an Amish follower’s devotion to God, and to cut them is humiliating.
Defense lawyers argued that the beard-cutting forays never reached the level of a hate crime — for conviction, a religious motive and bodily injury, including disfigurement, must be proven.
They argued that love and compassion drove the hair-cutting conflicts, which were intended to compel the victims to return to a conservative Amish lifestyle.
Mullet’s sister, Barbara Miller, was among the victims of the hair-cutting attacks. She covered her face with her jacket as the judge read the verdict and declined to comment to reporters outside the courthouse.
“It’s sad, sure,” said Mullet’s brother John, who lives apart from the Mullet compound, and accompanied his sister Barbara to court nearly every day of the three-week trial.
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