The leader of a dissident Amish sect was sentenced on Friday to 15 years in prison for a series of bizarre beard- and hair-cutting attacks on other Ohio Amish that drew national attention. Samuel Mullet Sr., 67, the leader, was sentenced in Federal District Court in Cleveland for coordinating assaults that prosecutors argued were motivated by religious intolerance. Fifteen of his followers, including six women, were given lesser sentences, ranging from one year and one day to seven years.The case is more serious than it sounds, if you picture it from the perspective of the victims:
The breakaway Amish were convicted last year of multiple counts of conspiracy and hate crimes, which carry harsher punishment than simple assault.
The series of attacks in 2011 spread fear through Amish communities in eastern Ohio. Followers of Mr. Mullet broke into homes, restrained men and women, and forcibly sheared their victims, sometimes with tools used to clip horse manes.We're talking about violence, here, in a series of connected incidents, with the avowed intention of taking away from the victims their cultural and religious identities, or as the Times describes:
For Amish, descendants of 18th-century German-speaking immigrants, long beards and flowing women’s hair represent religious devotion and cultural identity.
But in passing sentence Judge Dan Aaron Polster told Mr. Mullet and his co-defendants that they were being punished for depriving victims of a constitutional right, religious freedom, whose fruits they enjoyed themselves as Amish through exemptions from jury service and other laws.That seems to me to have it pretty much exactly right. This was a serious offense, albeit not warranting the life sentences the prosecutor demanded. The judge affixed the most serious punishment on the ringleader, showing mercy to his followers, while still treating them as guilty of a serious felony.
“Each of you has received the benefits of that First Amendment,” Judge Polster said.