Amish to be resentenced after hate crime convictions overturned

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2015 10:10 AM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Sixteen members of a breakaway Amish group were due to be resentenced on Monday after an Ohio appellate court ruled in August that they did not commit a hate crime when they cut the beards and hair of fellow members of their religious faith.

Eight members of the group, who already have completed their prison sentences, will not be given additional time, according to an email that U.S. District Court Judge Aaron Polster sent to defense attorneys last week.

It was not clear what would happen to the other eight Amish men and woman from Bergholz, a rural community southeast of Cleveland.

Wendi Overmyer, attorney for Samuel Mullet, 69, leader of the sect, has asked for time served for her client. Mullet is three years into a 15-year sentence, the longest of the group.

Federal prosecutors argued that the remaining conspiracy and obstruction convictions warrant even longer sentences for some of the Amish still incarcerated.

Amish women do not cut their hair or wear jewelry. After marriage, Amish men grow beards.

In the original trial, prosecutors called Mullet a "cult leader" who orchestrated the hair-cutting attacks as retaliation for personal and spiritual disagreements he had with Amish in other groups. During the trial, which was held in Cleveland, several victims said they were humiliated when the defendants sheared their hair.

As the Amish bishop of Bergholz, Mullet was considered by prosecutors to be the ringleader even though he was not present at any of the five separate attacks on nine different individuals in 2011.

The victims had religious and personal ties to the Bergholz community.

A jury found in February 2012 that four of the five attacks amounted to a hate crime under the Hate Crime Act. But, in August 2014, the 6th Circuit Appellate Court reversed and remanded convictions in the hate crimes. The conspiracy to conceal evidence charges remained.

Overmyer claimed in a Feb. 20 sentencing memorandum that, "The 39 months served to date by Samuel Mullet is a proportionate sentence to other obstruction cases.

"There is no likelihood that defendants will engage in this conduct again."

(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Bill Trott)