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Amish Hair Attackers Guilty Of Hate Crimes
A group of Amish men and women have been convicted of hate crimes, including forcibly cutting off people's beards and hair.
A jury found Samuel Mullet Senior guilty of orchestrating the cuttings of Amish men's beards and women's hair in attacks that shocked the normally peaceful religious settlements in eastern Ohio.
His followers were found guilty of carrying out the attacks. In total, 16 people were convicted.
The court heard how sons pulled their father out of bed and chopped off his beard in the moonlight and how women surrounded their mother-in-law and cut off her very long hair, taking it down to the scalp in some places.
All the defendants are members of Mullet's settlement that he founded near the West Virginia panhandle.
Prosecutors said Mullet planned and encouraged the attackers and was given a paper bag stuffed with the hair of one victim.
One bishop told jurors his chest-length beard was chopped to within 1.5 inches of his chin when four or five men dragged him out of his farmhouse late at night.
Prosecutors told jurors that Mullet thought he was above the law and free to discipline those who went against him based on his religious beliefs.
The defence acknowledged that the hair cuttings took place but argued that prosecutors were overreaching by calling them hate crimes.
Hair carries spiritual significance in the Amish faith.
Before his arrest last November, Mullet defended what he believes is his right to punish people who break church laws.
"You have your laws on the road and the town - if somebody doesn't obey them, you punish them. But I'm not allowed to punish the church people?" he told the Associated Press.
Witnesses testified that Mullet had complete control over the settlement that he founded two decades ago and described how his religious teachings and methods of punishments deviated from Amish traditions.
Those involved in the hair cuttings face prison terms of 10 years or more.
The charges against Mullet and the others included conspiracy, evidence tampering and obstruction of justice.