CLEVELAND — No one disputes that followers of Amish bishop Samuel Mullet Sr. used horse-mane shears last year to forcibly cut the beards and hair of other members of Amish communities in rural Ohio.
Only their motivation is in dispute as Mullet and 15 of his faithful stand trial in U.S. District Court on federal hate-crime charges. Did religious bias move them to act, or did a compassionate desire to help wayward brethren return to strict Amish ways?
"Why did they do this? I know it sounds strange: Compassion," defense attorney Dean Carro told jurors Tuesday during opening statements. "No crime has been committed. These were purely good intentions."
But prosecutors showed jurors a photo of defendant Johnny Mullet using one hand to grab the long, white beard of Raymond Hershberger, a 79-year-old Amish bishop, and using the other hand to chop.