The hate-crime convictions of 16 Amish men and women were overturned in an Ohio appeals court on Wednesday after the U.S. Court of Appeals found that jury was given incorrect instructions before coming to their verdict. These 16 men and women were accused of cutting the hair and beards of Amish people, according to CNN News on Aug. 27.
The jury was not informed properly on debating the role religion played in these attacks, the panel of judges said when overturning the hate-crime conviction. The leader of this gang of hair-cutters, Samuel Mullet Sr., and 15 of his followers were given stiff sentences when all were found guilty of committing hate-crimes when cutting the hair of the victims, reports MSN News.
While no one is challenging that they actually did cut the hair of the individuals, they are challenging that it was done under the criteria of a hate-crime. The panel of judges who heard the appeal found that considerable evidence supports the claims of the16 defendants that these crimes were committed because of interpersonal and intra-family disagreements and not because of the victims’ religious beliefs.
The prosecutors in the case maintained that Mullet and his group of scissor-yielding followers cut the hair and shaved beards of various individuals who left Mullet’s group after various religious disagreements.
Mullet was the leader who instructed his followers to commit these attacks on the victims’ hair, so his sentence was the stiffest of all. He was handed down 15-years in prison. Four of his followers received sentences of seven years in prison, three got five-years, two were sentenced to two years and six got a year and a day for their part in the crimes.
The crimes of the hair cutting attacks along with other charges, such as Mullet being found guilty of concealing evidence, will stay the same. The only difference is that they will not be considered hate-crimes. The charges, which were not part of the appeal will still stand. It is unclear if any of the defendants will be released after winning this appeal.
It is not known how the prison sentences will change now that the hate-crime tag has been removed from the crimes due to this appeal process. Mullet is the leader of a group of Amish that separated from the larger Amish community. The group consists of mostly relatives living on and around an 800-acre compound. The group settled in a remote area of Bergholz, Ohio.
Amish men consider their beard a significant symbol of manhood and faith. The Amish women also consider their hair an important symbol of their faith, so the attack that left them with their hair cut short met much more to them than having an unwanted new hair-do. Mullet and his group convey that the hair cutting was just about a family squabble rather than a religious attack.