CLEVELAND — A federal jury on Thursday convicted an Ohio Amish sect leader and 15 of his followers on federal hate crimes charges in connection with several beard- and hair-cutting attacks on Amish people that shocked the state last fall.
Samuel Mullet Sr. and each of his followers were found guilty on multiple charges for the attacks on nine Amish men and women. The jury in federal court in Cleveland began deliberating last Thursday.
Prosecutors contended the crimes were motivated by religious disputes between Mullet, the leader of a sect in Berholtz, Ohio, and other Amish religious leaders who had accepted into their communities people Mullet had excommunicated from his.
Defense attorneys argued that the attacks were the result of family or financial disputes and not religious differences, and therefore were not hate crimes.
Mullet was convicted on seven of the nine charges against him. He was not present for any of the attacks, but prosecutors had accused him of encouraging and even orchestrating them.
All 15 of Mullet’s followers were convicted of at least one charge in addition to conspiracy.
The attacks were discussed openly by Mullet’s followers, some of whom brought back hair they had cut off as trophies or took pictures of the victims to show Mullet.
Amish women do not cut their hair and Amish men do not cut their beards after marriage as symbols of their righteousness.
The defendants each face a minimum of 210 months in prison. The defendants who were out on bond during the trial will remain so. Others, including Mullet were being held without bond.
Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 24.