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Sam Mullet, Amish beard-cutting ring leader, gets 15-year jail term

Sam Mullet is an Amish leader who terrorized other Amish followers by cutting their beards and hair. The government said the attacks were retaliation against Amish who had defied or denounced Sam Mullet and his authority.

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Sam Mullet Sr. stands in the front yard of his home in Bergholz, Ohio. Mullet, 67, the ringleader in a series of unusual hair- and beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison, and 15 family members received sentences of one year to seven years.

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

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The ringleader in hair- and beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison and 15 family members received sentences of one year to seven years.

"The victims were terrorized and traumatized," U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster said in sentencing leader Sam Mullet Sr., 67, who sat without emotion.

The judge said the defendants had violated the constitutional rights protecting religious practice that had benefited them as Amish — such as an exemption from jury service and allowing Amish children to leave school at age 14.

"Each of you has received the benefits of that First Amendment," Polster said.

The judge said the defendants have two weeks to file appeals of their sentences or convictions. Defense attorneys have indicated such appeals are likely.

Before his sentencing, Mullet told the judge that he had been accused of running a cult, which he has denied. Mullet, his ankles in chains and a white beard down to mid-chest, said if his community is seen as a cult, "Then I'm going to take the punishment for everybody."

With relatives of victims and his family sitting on opposite sides of the public gallery, Mullet said he has lived his life trying to help others.

"That's been my goal all my life," Mullet said to a hushed courtroom, with his fellow defendants and their attorneys sitting at four defense tables and filling the jury box.

"I'm not going to be here much longer," said Mullet, who didn't elaborate on any health issues.

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