CLEVELAND, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A Cleveland jury Thursday found 16 Amish men and women guilty of hate crimes for cutting their Amish rivals' beards and head hair.
The U.S. District Court jury decided the case after deliberating for more than 32 hours over five days, WKYC-TV, Cleveland, reported.
The defendants -- 10 men and six women, including their leader, Sam Mullet Sr. -- were convicted on conspiracy charges. Mullet, 66, was found guilty of orchestrating the forcible cutting of nine men's beards and hair last September and November, the TV station said.
He was also found guilty of lying to the FBI during questioning about the attacks. However, he was acquitted on charges of destroying hair from an attack and of attacking a man in a Set. 24, 2011, incident.
Head hair and beards are sacred symbols of faith in God for Amish men.
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach called the conviction a "triumph for that most basic and sacred freedom, freedom of religion," WKYC said.
Defense attorneys argued their clients were trying to bring their victims back to God by ordering their beards cut. Prosecutors described the cutting as part of a home invasion connected with a family feud.