Sentences reduced for Amish jailed in beard-cutting attacks
CLEVELAND (AP) — Prison sentences were reduced Monday for the leader of a breakaway Amish group and seven of his followers who chopped off the hair and beards of Amish people with whom they disagreed.
Some of the seven victims in the 2011 attacks were awakened in the middle of the night, restrained and forcibly disfigured in an effort to destroy an important symbol of their beliefs.
A sheriff testified at trial that one bishop’s hair was unevenly chopped to the scalp, leaving it bloody. Another victim said four or five men dragged him out of his house by his chest-length beard and chopped it to within 1 1/2 inches of his chin.
Last year, an appeals court dismissed hate crimes convictions against the 16 men and women, including the Ohio group’s leader, Samuel Mullet Sr. On Monday, Judge Dan Aaron Polster resentenced them on their remaining charges, principally conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Mullet’s 15-year sentence was reduced to 10 years, nine months. Sentences for four men who received seven years were cut to five years. Sentences for three men who got five years were lowered to three years, seven months.
The other eight, including six women, have served their sentences.
None of the 16 defendants spoke in court.
Prosecutors argued in motions that the original sentences should have remained intact because of the defendants’ religious motivation and because the sentences were lower than what federal guidelines allowed.
Attorneys for all the imprisoned men asked Polster to reduce their client’s sentences to time served, allowing for their release. Edward Bryan, one of Samuel Mullet’s attorneys, argued in court that it would be an “irrational fear” to think his client would commit another crime.
The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the hate crime convictions because of improper jury instructions by Polster on whether the 16 were involved in the hair and beard cutting because of the victims’ religion.
The community has been shunned since the attacks by other Amish communities and hasn’t been able to find another Amish bishop willing to perform marriages and funerals, the defense said.
Hair and beards have spiritual significance in the Amish faith. Amish men do not shave their beards after marriage, believing it signifies their devotion to God.