16 Amish in Ohio beard attack case reject plea

Members of the Amish community leave the U.S. Federal Courthouse Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Cleveland. Sixteen men and women pleaded not guilty in beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish in Ohio.
AP Photo/Tony Dejak

(AP) CLEVELAND - Sixteen people charged in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio have rejected plea bargain offers and will go to trial next month.

The defendants include members of an eastern Ohio breakaway Amish group. Prosecutors say the attacks were hate crimes. The defendants say they were internal church disciplinary matters not involving anti-Amish bias.

16 plead not guilty in Ohio Amish beard-cutting attacks
16 defendants due in court in Ohio Amish beard-cutting attacks

The defendants told a federal judge in Cleveland on Monday that they understand the risks of trial, including lengthy prison terms if convicted.

The plea bargains detailed in court would have given many of the defendants sentences of two to three years in prison instead of the possibility of 20 years or more.