First witness details Amish beard-cutting attack

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, left, looks on as Lester Mullet, center, and his brother Johnny Mullet, right, review papers while appearing in Jefferson County Common Pleas court during an extradition hearing in Steubenville, Ohio on Oct. 11, 2011.
AP Photo/Steubenville Herald Star-Mark Law

(CBS/AP) CLEVELAND - An Amish preacher in Ohio says he watched three men cut his father's hair and beard during an attack last fall that left his father shaking and relatives screaming.

Andy Hershberger is the first witness in the trial of a breakaway Amish group from eastern Ohio accused of hate crimes in hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish.

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He testified Wednesday in Cleveland that his father, an Amish bishop, pleaded for the men not to shear him. But he says within minutes, the hair from his father's beard had been cut and scattered across the floor. He says hair clumps were missing from his father's head and his scalp was bleeding.

Beards and hair have great religious importance among the Amish.

Sixteen men and women are charged in the beard-cutting attacks, some facing prison terms of 20 years or more if convicted. They earlier turned down plea bargain offers that would have carried much shorter sentences.

Prosecutors say potential evidence includes horse mane shears allegedly used in the attacks.

A defense attorney has likened the cuttings to a family feud. Samuel Mullet, Sr., one of the defendants, said the government shouldn't intrude on what they call internal church disciplinary matters.