(CBS/AP) BERGHOLZ, Ohio - Authorities raided the compound of a breakaway Amish group in eastern Ohio on Wednesday morning. They arrested seven men on federal hate crime charges in hair-cutting attacks against Amish men and women.
Among those arrested were the group's leader, Sam Mullet, and three of his sons, said Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Cleveland.
Authorities have said several members of the group carried out the attacks in September and October by forcefully cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women. Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.
The attacks struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. They strongly believe that they must be forgiving in order for God to forgive them, which often means handing out their own punishment and not reporting crimes to law enforcement.
Mullet told The Associated Press in October that he didn't order the hair-cutting but didn't stop his sons and others from carrying it out. He said the goal of the hair-cutting was to send a message to Amish in Holmes County that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community.
"They changed the rulings of our church here, and they're trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we're not going to do that," Mullet said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said Wednesday that religious differences should be a matter of theological debate, not disputes "resolved by late night visits to people's homes with weapons and violent attacks." He said he did not know how often hate crimes involve intradenominational disputes.
Those arrested include Mullet; his sons Johnny, Lester and Daniel; Levi Miller; Eli Miller; and Emanuel Schrock. The charges carry a penalty of up 10 years in prison.
The FBI affidavit detailed four hair-cutting attacks. The attacks occurred against a couple in Trumbull County on Sept. 6; on Oct. 4 against a man and his son in Holmes County; later on Oct. 4 against a man in Carroll County; and on Nov. 9 against a man allegedly lured to the Mullet complex in Jefferson County.
An FBI affidavit said Johnny, Lester and Daniel Mullet and Levi and Eli Miller all confessed in early October to taking part in at least a couple of the attacks.
Johnny Mullet told detectives that it was his idea to cut the hair and beards and that he discussed the idea with his father, who gave him the addresses of two victims, the affidavit said.
Lester Mullet told detectives that after two attacks in late September, the men went home and told Sam Mullet what happened. He said his father laughed and called them nuts, the court document said.
Abdalla, the sheriff, said he didn't know the specifics of the religious disagreements that prompted Mullet to form his own community in 1995.
But the heart of his recent dispute with Amish bishops stemmed from his desire to excommunicate several members, the FBI said. Other bishops concluded the excommunications weren't consistent with Amish teachings and scripture and decided not to recognize the penalties, the FBI said.
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