Amish lose appeal of convictions in Ohio beard-cutting attacks

May 12, 2016
A silhouetted Amish man waits during his buggy tour in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania August 9, 2014. It's that Old World charm of the Amish that draws 8 million tourists - and $1.9 billion - each year to Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, home of the nation's largest Amish community of 31,000. What the Amish don't do, supporters say, is tote rifles as part of a violent protection racket - as depicted in the television show "Amish Mafia" - or regularly defy their religion, like in "Breaking Amish" and "Breaking Amish: Brave New World." And, Amish horror stories are not the norm, despite the plot lines of the upcoming "Amish Haunting." Filmmaker Mary Haverstick is leading a push to eject the shows, airing on the Discovery Channel and related networks, from Lancaster County. The movement is gathering support because of what some see as a demeaning, inaccurate portrayal of the gentle, devout group. But some wonder if the hard-edged reality TV approach is that different from the soft exploitation of the Amish by the local tourism industry. In both, the Amish are unpaid, costumed "extras." Picture taken August 9, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Makela (UNITED STATES - Tags: RELIGION MEDIA EDUCATION ENTERTAINMENT TRAVEL) - RTR42PO1

(A silhouetted Amish man waits during his buggy tour in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania August 9, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Makela)

Fifteen members of an Ohio Amish sect convicted in a spate of beard- and hair-cutting attacks on other adherents to their faith have lost a bid to have their convictions thrown out, after a U.S. appeals court ruled they had failed to challenge them in a timely manner.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati also rejected on May 4 the claim from some defendants that their prison sentences, which ranged from 3-1/2 years to nearly 11 years, were unjustly long.

The case involved an Amish sect in the rural community of Bergholz, southeast of Cleveland.

Federal prosecutors said the bishop, Samuel Mullet, was a “cult leader” who orchestrated five attacks as retaliation for personal and spiritual disagreements with other Amish.

Beards are an essential aspect of religious expression for Amish men, while Amish women do not cut their hair. Several victims testified at the 2012 trial regarding the humiliation they experienced as a result of the assaults.

A jury convicted 16 members of hate crimes, conspiring to conceal evidence and other counts.

The 6th Circuit, however, tossed the hate crime convictions in 2014, prompting U.S. District Judge Aaron Polster to reduce the prison sentences for the eight defendants who were still serving time.

All but one of the 16 defendants subsequently challenged their convictions on the lesser counts, while the eight resentenced defendants also appealed the length of their prison terms.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel from the 6th Circuit said the defendants could not appeal their convictions on the lesser charges after having failed to do so the first time around.

The panel also said Polster’s sentences were an appropriate exercise of his discretion.

Wendi Overmyer, a lawyer for Mullet, said they were “disappointed” in the ruling and would consider their legal options. Lawyers for the other defendants did not immediately comment on the decision.

Source: Amish lose appeal of convictions in Ohio beard-cutting attacks | Reuters

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