Samuel Mullet, Sr., the leader of an Amish gang (which prosecutors described as a cult), was sentenced to prison for multiple attacks on rival Ohio Amish, who Mullet believed had departed from traditional Amish values.
Mullet planned the attacks, which were carried out by 15 others, including three of his sons. Mullet’s gang held down their enemies and cut off their prized possessions – their beards. Beards have religious significance to Amish, and also signify manhood. Mustaches are not allowed.
Mullet was convicted of conspiracy and federal hate crimes because of the religious motivation behind the attacks. He received 15 years for his chief role in the attacks, while the other defendants received lesser sentences.
The criminal convictions were later overturned by an appellate court, however. The panel ruled that the trial judge used an overly broad definition of a hate crime. The prosecutors argued for the application a 2009 federal hate crime law, which the judge interpreted to require that the religion of the victims need only be one “significant factor” in the attacks. The appeal panel ruled that the religion of the victim must be the predominant motivating factor in the attacks, which the evidence did not support.
The criminal lawyers were pleased with the ruling, but were seeking a complete renouncement of the government’s application of the federal hate crime statute. The ruling was confined to the trial court’s jury instructions and lack of evidence regarding the religious motive.
Jean-Paul Guidry is a criminal lawyer in Shreveport, Louisiana.