Amish beard-cutters: Ringleader Samuel Mullet Sr jailed for 15 years

The Telegraph, UK/February 8, 2013

An Amish sect leader has been jailed for 15 years after a bizarre series of attacks in which his followers cut off the beards and hair of other Amish men and women.

Samuel Mullet Sr told a judge in Cleveland, Ohio that he had been blamed for running the cult and was ready to take the punishment.

Amish believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards once they marry. Cutting it would be offensive to the group.

Last year, Mullet and 15 of his followers were convicted of hate crimes for the attacks on nine Amish men and women.

Prosecutors had contended the crimes were motivated by religious disputes between Mullet, the leader of a sect in Berholtz, Ohio, and other Amish religious leaders who had accepted into their communities people Mullet had excommunicated from his.

Defence attorneys argued that the attacks were the result of family or financial disputes and not religious differences, and therefore were not hate crimes.

Yesterday the judge also sentenced 15 other members of the deeply traditional group to prison terms ranging from one to seven years.

The 67-year-old Mullet, his ankles in chains and a white beard down to mid-chest, said if his community is seen as a cult, "Then I'm going to take the punishment for everybody."

The government had asked for a life sentence for Mullet.

In a rare interview last week, Mullet's unmarried 19-year-old grandson, Edward Mast, said his family are steadfast in the belief that the attacks were not a hate crime.

"The beard, what it stands for me, what I know about it, once you're married, you just grow a beard. That's just the way the Amish is," Mast said.

As for the victims, he added, "They got their beard back again, so what's the big deal about it?"

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