(WASHINGTON) — The leader of an Amish splinter sect and his followers were found guilty Thursday of violating federal hate crime laws for conducting a series of bizarre attacks in which they shaved the hair and beards of other Amish whose religious beliefs they disagreed with.
A jury found Samuel Mullet Sr. and 15 members of his church guilty of the attacks that rocked the picturesque Amish communities of eastern Ohio.
Prosecutors said the attacks were hate crimes because the victims were targeted for their religious beliefs and because the attacks were focused on the victim’s hair and beards, which the Amish believe they are spiritually obligated to keep long.
Mullet, 66, was not personally accused of shaving anyone, but prosecutors said he was considered the group’s leader and bishop, and instructed his followers, including four of his children, to conduct the attacks.
Mullet and the other members never denied the cuttings, but said they were not hate crimes. Mullet insisted they were a response to other Amish leaders criticizing him for being too strict.
Members of Mullet’s settlement testified that the bishop had ordered men to serve out punishments in chicken coops, and women were subjected to sexual “counseling.”
Mullet’s followers committed five attacks, including one on a neighboring bishop, cutting his chest-length beard back to his chin.
Each of the convicted sect members faces up to 10 years in prison.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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