Defense Rests Without Calling A Single Witness in Amish Beard Cutting Trial
CLEVELAND (AP) – Defense attorneys didn’t call any witnesses in the trial of 16 people accused of carrying out the hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish after prosecutors wrapped up their case Tuesday.
Testimony ended two weeks after the hate crimes trial began in federal court. Closing statements were scheduled to begin Wednesday morning.
Prosecutors say the defendants planned or took part in at least one of five attacks last fall, cutting off Amish men’s beards and women’s hair because they carry spiritual significance in the faith. They were charged with hate crimes because prosecutors believe that religious differences between the Amish brought about the attacks.
None of the defense attorneys denied that hair-cuttings took place and some said their clients had taken part, but they said what happened didn’t amount to hate crimes.
The attorneys said in opening statements that members of the breakaway group took action out of compassion and concern that some Amish were straying from their beliefs and likened the dispute to a family feud.
The defendants, who live in the Bergholz settlement in eastern Ohio, could face lengthy prison terms if convicted on charges that include conspiracy and obstructing justice.
The group’s leader, Sam Mullet Sr., has denied ordering the hair-cutting but said he didn’t stop anyone from carrying it out.
Prosecutors said Mullet was vindictive and had complete control over people in his community, taking part in the sexual “counseling” of married women and punishing others by forcing them to sleep in chicken coops.
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