Rogue Amish Group Convicted of Beard-Cutting Hate Crime

Remember the rogue Amish group that forcibly cut the beards and hair off of rival Amish groups? Today, leader Samuel Mullet Sr. and fifteen of his followers were convicted on charges of federal conspiracy and hate crimes.

Defense attorneys admitted that the attacks occurred, but justified them as being part of family disputes. Prosecutors succesfully argued the crimes violated the religious rights of their victims, and therefore counted as a hate crime.

"We believe these attacks were religiously motivated," Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a telephone interview. "While people are free to disagree about religion in this country, we don't settle those disagreements with late-night visits, dangerous weapons and violent attacks."

The attacks themselves were somehow more brutal than you'd expect:

The testimony included an elderly woman's account of her terror as six of her children and their spouses made a surprise late-night visit, with the men holding down her sobbing husband as they hacked off his beard and hair and the women cut her waist-length hair to above the ears as she prayed aloud.

Mullet Sr. wasn't directly involved with the actual cutting, but he was the mastermind behind the attacks. And this:

According to testimony, Mr. Mullet stayed up late to greet attackers when they returned to the compound after one of the assaults, accepting a bag of shorn hair as well as disposable cameras used to record the victims' humiliation. The prosecutors argued that his followers would not have acted without Mr. Mullet's approval, citing what one of his sisters called the zombielike obedience of Bergholz residents.

Who knew the Amish were so much like the rest of us?

Mullet Sr. and the other 15 face up to ten years in jail for the attacks.

[Image via AP]