Prosecutors will begin arguing their case Tuesday in the federal hate-crime trial of an Amish leader and 15 followers accused of forcibly cutting the beards or hair of their religious enemies last fall.
A jury was selected on Monday for the case being heard in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, The Associated Press reported.
Samuel J. Mullet Sr. and his co-defendants, all but one of them relatives, face charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, hate crimes and obstruction, "because of actual or perceived religion" of the victims, according to an affadavit.
Sixteen men and women are accused in three separate attacks on nine people. Mullet, 66, is accused of being the ringleader of the assaults although authorities say he was not present during any of them, according to Reuters.
Prosecutors will seek to show that Mullet had cult leader-like control over the members of the Amish clan who allegedly engaged in the attacks.
Some of the alleged victims are parents of some of the suspects, highlighting a bitter dispute within the Amish community, which is normally known for its pacifism.
Federal prosecutors say the attacks were revenge in a dispute between Mullet — leader of a group of Amish in Bergholz, Ohio, that had separated from the larger Amish community 17 years ago — and other Amish bishops, according to an FBI affadavit.
A gathering of 300 mainstream Amish overturned Mullet’s decision to excommunicate eight families after they left his clan in 2005, prompting Mullet and his followers to launch the attacks, the affidavit said.
In the forcible cutting of the victims’ hair and beards with 8-inch horse mane-cutting shears, some of the victims were wounded and bloodied, the affidavit said.
In Amish culture, men’s beard hair and women’s head hair have religious significance.
If convicted, Mullet could get life in prison, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
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