CINCINNATI (AP) — The leader of a group of 16 Amish men and women found guilty of hate crimes for cutting the hair and beards of fellow members of their faith on Wednesday lost his latest request to be released from prison pending an appeal of his conviction.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati rejected Samuel Mullet Sr.'s request, ruling that he hasn't proven that he's not a threat to his eastern Ohio Amish community and that his appeal is unlikely to succeed.
Mullet, 67, is serving 15 years in prison stemming from the 2011 attacks, meant to shame fellow Amish accused of straying from strict religious interpretations. Fifteen others convicted in the case were sentenced to between one to seven years in prison.
"(Mullet) is the leader and exercises control over the members of his community," wrote the judges, saying that Mullet could still pose a danger to them.
The judges also found that the legal arguments Mullet is making in his appeal "are not likely to result in reversal, a new trial, a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, or a sentence less than the total time he has already served."
Mullet's attorney, Edward Bryan, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Among the arguments in Mullet's pending appeal of his conviction are that he and the other Amish were wrongfully prosecuted under the federal hate crime statute, passed in 2009, and that the acts committed amounted to domestic violence with no religious undertones.
In Wednesday's decision, the three-judge panel wrote that the argument was "meritless."
"Here, shears and scissors that had traveled from out of state into Ohio were used as weapons of hate and religious animus," they wrote. "The victims in this situation had their hair and beards cut because of their unwillingness to abide by Mullet's commands as Bishop of the Bergholz Amish community."
Prosecutors successfully argued at trial that the group cut the beards and hair of other members because hair carries spiritual significance, hence the hate crime. The Amish argued that they're bound by rules guided by their religion and the government should never have gotten involved in what amounted to a family or church dispute.
Wednesday's decision is the latest rejection of a string of requests from Mullet to be released.
In April, federal Judge Dan Aaron Polster turned down such a request and dismissed Mullet's complaint at being housed in a federal prison in Texas instead of closer to home; Mullet had argued that his location put an overly harsh burden on his family should they want to visit him.
In accordance with their beliefs, the Amish do not travel by plane and have to hire drivers for car travel.
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