(Reuters) - A federal jury on Thursday convicted an Ohio Amish sect leader and 15 of his followers on federal hate crimes charges in connection with several beard-cutting attacks on Amish people that shocked the state last fall.
Samuel Mullet Sr. and his followers were found guilty of conspiracy to commit hate crimes for attacks on nine Amish men and women. Each defendant faced other charges for their participation or planning in the attacks.
The jury in federal court in Cleveland began deliberating last Thursday.
Prosecutors contended the crimes were motivated by religious disputes between Mullet, the leader of a sect in Berholtz, Ohio, and other Amish religious leaders who had accepted into their communities people Mullet had excommunicated from his.
Defense attorneys argued that the attacks were the result of family or financial disputes and not religious differences, and therefore were not hate crimes.