Closings set in Ohio Amish hair-cutting trial

AP News
Posted: Sep 12, 2012 3:05 AM
Closings set in Ohio Amish hair-cutting trial

CLEVELAND (AP) — A trial for 16 people accused in hair- and beard-cutting attacks against fellow Amish is wrapping up in Ohio.

Closing statements are scheduled for Wednesday in the federal hate crimes trial.

Prosecutors say the defendants planned or took part in at least one of five attacks last fall, cutting off Amish men's beards and women's hair because the hair carries spiritual significance in the faith. The suspects were charged with hate crimes because prosecutors believe religious differences between the Amish brought about the attacks.

None of the defense attorneys denied that hair-cuttings took place. Some said their clients participated, but they said what happened didn't amount to hate crimes.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case Tuesday, and defense attorneys didn't call witnesses.

Testimony ended two weeks after the trial began. Those who testified included the son of an Amish bishop whose beard was cut and the Holmes County sheriff, whose jurisdiction has one of the nation's biggest Amish settlements.

The defendants, who live in the Bergholz settlement in eastern Ohio, could face lengthy prison terms if convicted on charges that include conspiracy and obstructing justice.

The defendants include the group's leader, Sam Mullet Sr., who denied ordering the hair-cutting but said he didn't stop anyone from carrying it out.

The government contends the hair-cutting was motivated by a religious dispute between Mullet and other Amish bishops who had sought to limit his authority.

Prosecutors said Mullet was vindictive and had complete control over people in his community, taking part in the sexual "counseling" of married women and punishing others by forcing them to sleep in chicken coops.