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Amish charged in Ohio beard-cutting case seek to avoid oath during trial

In this Oct. 19, 2011 file photo, from left: Johnny Mullet, Lester Mullet, Daniel Mullet, Levi Miller and Eli Miller wait to make their pleas in Holmes County Municipal Court in Millersburg, Ohio. The five men, along with reputed Amish breakaway sect leader Sam Mullet and Emanuel Shrock, were arrested by the FBI and local sheriff's deputies early Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 on federal hate crime charges. Wooster Daily Record,AP Photo/Mike Schenck

(CBS/AP) CLEVELAND - Some of the 16 Amish people charged in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish are asking not to be required to swear an oath if they testify in federal court, according to court documents filed Monday.

Pictures: Amish men charged in beard-cutting attacks

Many Amish don't believe in swearing oaths and some have requested they be allowed to simply affirm the truthfulness of their testimony.

Last fall, several members of the group living in Bergholz, a village of 700 residents about 80 miles southeast of Cleveland, allegedly forcibly cut the beards and hair of men and the hair of women, acts considered deeply offensive in Amish culture, and then took photos to shame them.

Prosecutors describe the attacks as hate crimes prompted by a feud over church discipline.

However, the defendants say the attacks were internal church disciplinary matters not involving anti-Amish bias. They denied the charges and rejected plea bargain offers and could face lengthy prison terms if convicted.

In a move opposed by prosecutors, attorneys for Sam Mullet Sr., the man accused of being the group's ringleader and other defendants are seeking to delay the Aug. 27 trial to give them more time to prepare and resolve legal issues raised in pretrial documents. The defense says the remote location, in far eastern Ohio, and restrictions of Amish society have slowed preparations for the case.

Some defendants have also asked the court to prohibit references to a handful of topics, including Mullet's finances, media coverage of the case and terminology portraying his community as a cult or breakaway or splinter group.

Prosecutors also outlined their allegations in court documents Monday. Prosecutors said multiple defendants have confessed to law enforcement officers who will testify. The government also plans to use three recorded jail conversations spoken mostly in Pennsylvania Dutch and transcribed by a Holmes County detective.

Mullet previously said he didn't order the hair-cutting but didn't stop his sons and others from carrying it out. He said the goal was to send a message to other Amish that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating him 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 late last year.

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