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A leader of an Amish sect and all 15 of his followers were convicted of hate crimes for cutting off the beards of Amish rivals.
If you're not familiar with the Amish faith, hair and beards are considered sacred symbols of righteousness, writes NBC. When someone forcibly cuts these off, it is a big deal.
So a bishop of a Amish sect in Ohio, Samuel J. Mullet Sr., was accused of a particular heinous hate crime when he was charged with ordering his 15 minions to target nine religious rivals last year and cut off their hair and beards, reports NBC.
While Mullet was not accused of participating in any of the attacks himself, he was accused of being the mastermind and ordering the attacks. As a result he was charged with a variety of crimes including a federal hate crime.
Mullet was convicted of seven of the nine charges he faced and each of his 15 followers were also convicted of at least one charge, reports NBC. All of them face a minimum of 210 months in jail (more than 17 years) and sentencing is scheduled for early next year.
While this may seem like a tough sentence for beard cutting, federal officials said they wanted to send a message about religious intolerance, writes NBC. A federal prosecutor said, "the violent and offensive actions of these defendants, which were aimed at beliefs and symbols held sacred by this country's Amish citizens, are an affront to religious freedom and tolerance, which are core values protected by our Constitution and our civil rights laws."
For their defense, Mullet and his followers tried to argue that the attacks were based on family and financial conflicts, as opposed to religious conflicts. This way they could have avoided the more serious hate crime charges.