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Convictions upheld for 15 in Amish beard-cutting attacks

The Amish community members were convicted of staging night-time attacks against the enemies of the Bishop Sam Mullet, forcibly shaving five men's beards and head hair.

By Stephen Feller
Convictions upheld for 15 in Amish beard-cutting attacks
The Amish frown on violence; however, Bishop Sam Mullet ordered 15 men to attack five of his enemies in the middle of the night in late 2011, cutting their beards and shaving their heads, according to prosecutors. Convictions stemming from the assault were upheld by an appellate court Wednesday. Photo by hutch photography/Shutterstock

CINCINNATI, May 4 (UPI) -- The criminal convictions of 15 members of an Amish community who forcibly cut their rivals' beards were upheld Wednesday by a three-judge appellate panel in Cincinnati.

The 6th Court of Appeals was considering their second review of the convictions, which have been dismissed and reinstated twice since the crimes were committed in 2011, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported.

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The appeal was dismissed because the argument brought up in the second appeal should have been brought up in the first, and judges rebutted complaints that their sentences were too harsh, saying they felt there "substantively reasonable" for the crimes committed.

The 15 people, members of an Amish community in Bergholz, Ohio, were convicted on conspiracy charges in September 2012, for waking five enemies in the middle of the night and cutting off their hair with horse shears and a battery-powered razor.

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Convicted with them was their leader, Bishop Sam Mullet, who was said to have told them to carry out the attacks in what prosecutors said was a home invasion connected with a family feud.

They were prosecuted for hate crimes based on head hair and beards being sacred symbols of faith for Amish men, as well as defense attorneys arguing their clients were trying to bring their victims back to God.

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Mullet is currently serving a 10-year, nine-month sentence, and the 15 others each received between one and five years in prison.

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"We hope that this fact, along with the fact that Samuel Mullet will remain incarcerated for his convictions on obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI, allow the victims of these attacks to continue living their lives safely and peacefully," said Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Mullet and the 15 others were also convicted on other counts, including hate crimes, in 2012. The hate crime convictions, though, were thrown out in 2014 when the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the jury had not been properly advised on how to decide if a hate crime had been committed, and they were re-sentenced in 2015 for other crimes committed, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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