16 men and women from a breakaway Amish group will stand trial for hate crimes that involved cutting the beards and hair off of other Amish people.
The breakaway group, led by Samuel Mullet Sr. aged 66, stands guilty of committing hate crimes, which were carried out by different group members who purposefully cut the hair of other members in their former Amish community. Hair maintenance is an important aspect to traditional Amish views. Women do not cut hair, and men do not trim their beards after they are married.
The group of 10 men and six women stood before the court and plead not guilty, also refusing any plea bargain that was offered to them. The attacks were retaliation after being persecuted by lead members of the Amish community who did not agree with the same religious practices, according to Mullet.
"We'd like to get up in the morning, be left alone, live like normal people," Mullet said in a January interview according to the Wall Street Journal. "They won't leave us be."
The details over the religious disagreement, which pertains to church discipline, have not been revealed and the Amish community has fought to keep them secret, stating that the government should not get involved. Some sources have suggested that the disputed content included one bishop making members sleep in a chicken coop.
Despite being made a focus of the trial, Mullet has maintained his innocence. He stated that he did not order the attacks although he admitted he did not prevent them either.
"You have your laws on the road and the town- if somebody doesn't obey them you punish the people," Mullet said in the affidavit. "But I'm not allowed to punish the church people? I just let them run over me? If every family would do just as they pleased, what kind of church would we have?"
Prosecutors said that some of the suspects kept the hair that they had cut as a "trophy." One suspect also brought along a disposable camera in order to photograph his crime.