Trial in Amish hair-cutting attacks begins in Ohio

Topics: From the Wires,

CLEVELAND (AP) — A breakaway Amish group spent months planning hair- and beard-cutting attacks against followers of their faith in eastern Ohio, federal prosecutors said Tuesday as they outlined their case against 16 men and women charged with hate crimes in the attacks.

The accused ringleader, Samuel Mullet Sr., wore a blue shirt and suspenders, with a beard hanging down to the middle of his chest, and sat rigidly in his seat as the trial got under way in Cleveland. He and the other defendants denied the charges, rejected plea bargain offers and could face lengthy prison terms if convicted in the hair-cuttings, which are considered deeply offensive in Amish culture.

“Every one of these attacks targeted those symbols of Amish righteousness,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan, who described the attacks in nearly step-by-step detail.

Prosecutors say the attacks were motivated solely by religious disagreements between Amish bishops and a breakaway group. The defendants describe what happened as internal church disciplinary matters and say the government shouldn’t get involved.

Brennan said some suspects kept the hair they cut, and one defendant took along a disposable camera to take pictures. Prosecutors presented one photo to jurors, saying it showed a suspect holding an Amish bishop on the night some defendants broke into his house and cut his beard.

The camera was hidden under a tree, Brennan said.

“They wanted to see the trophies they collected,” she said.



Brennan said that several defendants admitted their roles and that Mullet didn’t participate in the attacks but helped plan them.

“Sam Mullet was at the beginning and the end of all of these attacks,” she said.

Mullet has said he didn’t order the hair-cutting but didn’t stop anyone from carrying it out.

Brennan said that some of the victims would testify against the defendants and that the children, grandchildren and siblings of the suspects also would testify about what they saw and knew.

The defense was expected to present its case later Tuesday.

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