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Sentences reduced for Amish jailed in beard-cutting attacks

CLEVELAND - Sentences were reduced Monday for the leader of a breakaway Amish group and seven of his imprisoned followers who chopped off the hair and beards of fellow Amish in an intra-sect feud.

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Samuel Mullet WKBN/U.S. Attorney

The victims were awakened in the middle of the night in 2011, restrained and forcibly disfigured in a way intended to destroy an important symbol of their beliefs, prosecutors have said.

In all, sixteen men and women, including the Ohio group's leader, Samuel Mullet Sr., were re-sentenced for convictions on their remaining charges after an appeals court last year dismissed hate crimes convictions.

Mullet's 15-year sentence was reduced Monday to 10 years, nine months. Sentences for four men who received seven years were cut to five years. Sentences for three men who got five years were lowered to three years, seven months.

The other eight perpetrators, including six women, have served their sentences.

Prosecutors argued that the original sentences should have remained intact because of the defendants' religious motivation and because the sentences were lower than what federal guidelines allowed.

Samuel Mullet did not directly participate in any of the attacks, but prosecutors accused him of exercising tight control over members of his community and helping hide evidence.

Defense attorneys had argued for the defendants to be released, saying Mullet is not likely to get into trouble again.

"A stigma will forever be attached to this community," his attorneys said.

Mullet's life would be much different today, they said. His wife of nearly 40 years died in November and several community members have left the Amish faith, including one of his co-defendants.

The community in Bergholz, Ohio, which sits near the West Virginia panhandle, has been shunned by other Amish communities and hasn't been able to find another Amish bishop willing to perform marriages and funerals, according to the defense motion.

"This case has served to educate both the Amish and the general population about the dangers of such conduct," his attorneys wrote. "Mullet's only wish is to return to a peaceful Amish community and put this ordeal behind him."