The prison sentences of eight members of an Amish sect were reduced by a federal judge in Cleveland on Monday after hate crime convictions were thrown out against them in a case involving hair- and beard-cutting attacks on other Amish in Ohio.
In all, 16 men and women, including group leader Samuel Mullet Sr., had been convicted in the case. Eight were resentenced Monday for convictions on charges including obstruction of justice and conspiracy remaining in the case after a federal appeals court last year dismissed the hate crime enhancements that led to the longer sentences.
Eight of the group, including six women, already served their sentences and were released, according to a court spokesman.
Mullet was sentenced to 10 years and nine months, down from the original 15 years.
U.S. Atty. Steven Dettelbach praised the steep sentences handed down Monday, saying they vindicated the original prosecution.
“These were significant sentences richly deserved,” Dettelbach told the Los Angeles Times. “It vindicates several important principles including that people have a right to be free in their homes and not be attacked because of their religion. It also shows that in our justice system no one has a right to destroy, conceal or avoid.”
The case began in 2011 when Mullet, an Amish bishop, ordered his followers to stage at least five hair-cutting attacks on other Amish, a pacifist religion whose members are noted for their plain dress and their reluctance to embrace modern technology.
Mullet was the charismatic leader of the group known as the Bergholz Amish, about 20 families who lived on an 880-acre farm in Bergholz, in Ohio's Jefferson County, about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland.
Mullet ordered some his followers to cut some of the men’s beards and women’s hair as punishments designed to force them into more traditional ways, according to prosecutors.
Beards and long hair are considered symbols of the Amish devotion to God. The victims were awakened in the middle of the night and had their hair cut, prosecutors maintained.
Defense lawyers argued the cuttings were ordered out of love and designed to save other Amish from their ways.
A Cleveland jury of seven men and five women deliberated for four days in 2012 before convicting Mullet and the other defendants. All received steep sentences because Ohio law included a hate crime provision that increased the penalty.
But the hate crime addition was thrown out by the appeals court last year, leaving the other convictions, mainly for hiding evidence and conspiracy.
In addition to Mullet, sentences for four men who originally received seven years were decreased to five years, the officials said. They were identified as Levi Miller, Eli Miller, Lester Mullet and John Mullet.
Sentences for three men -- Daniel Mullet, Lester Miller and Emanuel Schrock -- were reduced from five years to three years and seven months.
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