We’ve all had bad hair days. But a controversial Amish leader who shares a last name with a notoriously unfashionable hairdo was sentenced to prison time after ordering haircutting “attacks” that a judge ruled were hate crimes because of their religious nature.
Samuel Mullet and 15 of his followers were given prison sentences after being convicted of the five attacks, during which the followers allegedly used force to cut the hair of men and women.
The Amish forbid their female members to cut their hair and instruct men to grow beards after marriage.
While Mullet, 67, was not accused of directly participating in the attacks, he was charged with organizing and endorsing them—even recruiting four of his own children to take part.
"There is no doubt that Mullet wanted, agreed with and encouraged all of these attacks," reads a court filing from prosecutors in the case.
Mullet received the harshest sentence from Judge Dan Aaron Polster, 15 years in prison. The other convicted members received sentences ranging from one to seven years.
Citing his advanced age, Mullet claimed he was being singled out as a “cult leader” for allegedly leading a rogue group of Amish in the Bergholz, Ohio, community. “I'm going to take the punishment for everybody," he told the courtroom. "I'm not going to be here much longer.”
Court documents say the attacks were spurred by personal, religious disputes between Mullet’s community and members of other Amish communities.
In an interview with the Associated Press before the verdict, one of Mullet’s sons, Edward Mast, 19, said the group should not be charged with a hate crime.
"The beard, what it stands for me, what I know about it, once you're married, you just grow a beard. That's just the way the Amish is," Mast said. “They got their beard back again, so what's the big deal about it?"
However, court documents also allege that Mullet was physically abusive to male members of his community and participated in sexual “counseling” with married women.