Columbus -- A federal appeals court in Ohio has declined to hold a hearing by the full court on overturned hate crimes convictions involving beard- and hair-cutting attacks targeting Amish.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Thursday notified prosecutors and attorneys in the case that it has denied the federal government’s request for a hearing before the full court on a three-judge panel’s decision. The panel split 2-1 in August in favor of throwing out the hate crime convictions.
Prosecutors could also appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. A message seeking comment was left Friday with the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland.
Sixteen men and women were convicted after five attacks in 2011 that were in apparent retaliation against Amish who defied or denounced the authoritarian style of Sam Mullet Sr. He led the Bergholz community in eastern Ohio.
Defense attorneys said Friday that eight of the 16 people convicted were still incarcerated, including Mullet, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Defense attorneys Wendi Overmyer and Edward Bryan earlier this month tried unsuccessfully to get an emergency furlough for Mullet from a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, after the sudden death of his wife of 49 years, Martha Mullet, from cardiac arrest.
“She steadfastly stood by her husband’s side throughout these legal proceedings, hoping he would return home soon,” they wrote in their request.
Prosecutors expressed sympathy in their legal filing opposing the furlough but said it was up to the prison system, which hadn’t granted Mullet’s release to attend his wife’s funeral.
“It was rough,” Bryan said.
The couple had 18 children and 110 grandchildren, according to court filings.
Overmyer said prosecutors have 90 days from Thursday to appeal the case further.
The 6th Circuit panel’s ruling on Aug. 27 found that personal conflict, not religion, was the driving motive in the 2011 attacks.
Amish, who live in rural communities organized around bishops, dress and live simply and shun many aspects of the modern age such as electricity, refrigeration and computers. Many don’t drive and instead use horse-drawn buggies. They believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards once they marry. Cutting it forcibly is considered offensive.
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