Ohio Amish leader in prison for beard cuttings seeks release

FILE-This is an Oct. 10, 2011 file photo of Amish leader Sam Mullet standing in front of his home in Bergholz, Ohio. An attorney for Mullet, the leader of an Amish breakaway group convicted of hate crimes in beard- and hair-cutting attacks has asked a federal judge for a light sentence, saying what happened was no more than a minor assault, Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
FILE-This is an Oct. 10, 2011 file photo of Amish leader Sam Mullet standing in front of his home in Bergholz, Ohio. An attorney for Mullet, the leader of an Amish breakaway group convicted of hate crimes in beard- and hair-cutting attacks has asked a federal judge for a light sentence, saying what happened was no more than a minor assault, Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

The leader of a breakaway Amish group in Ohio whose hate crime convictions for beard- and hair-cutting attacks were overturned wants a federal judge to release him from prison when he’s resentenced next month.

All 16 members found guilty in the attacks that targeted Amish who had criticized them are to be resentenced March 2 in Cleveland since the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the most serious convictions against them.

Defense attorneys for Sam Mullet Sr. said his 15-year sentence should be reduced to the three years he’s already served.

Federal prosecutors in Cleveland want the original sentences to stand for Mullet and the others. Several of the others convicted have already been released and would not be forced back into prison.

The attacks in 2011 were meant to shame fellow Amish who had defied or denounced the authoritarian style of the leader of the Bergholz community in eastern Ohio.

Mullet, 69, did not take part in the hair cuttings, but received the longest prison term of all the defendants. Prosecutors said he exercised control over the members of his community and helped hide what happened.

New sentences are required in the case because the original sentences were based both on hate crimes convictions and convictions on other charges but did not differentiate between them.

“Imposing the same sentence of 15 years for conduct not proven beyond a preponderance of the evidence under the correct standard of law is unjust,” Mullet’s attorneys said in court documents filed last week.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier said Mullet should be resentenced to 15 years for concealing evidence and making false statements to the FBI. Both of those charges were not overturned.

Defense attorneys said Mullet is not a threat to get into trouble again, noting he has been a model prisoner and has no other convictions.

“This case has served to educate both the Amish and the general population about the dangers of such conduct,” his attorneys said. “Mullet’s only wish is to return to a peaceful Amish community and put this ordeal behind him.”

Mullet would face a different life than the one he left behind, his attorneys said.

His wife of nearly 40 years died in November and several community members have left the Amish faith, including one of his co-defendants, Mullet’s attorneys said.

The community in Bergholz, which sits near the West Virginia panhandle, is shunned by other Amish communities and has been unable to find another Amish bishop who is willing to perform marriages and funerals, according to the defense attorneys. “A stigma will forever be attached to this community,” they wrote.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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