While Eli Miller was not surprised Thursday afternoon when he learned Samuel Mullet Sr. and his 15 followers were found guilty of hate crimes, a pair of local attorneys were.
Miller, who is Amish and operates Miller's Harness and Leather in Mesopotamia, described Mullet and his followers as a cult, not practicing traditional Amish beliefs.
"We are waiting to learn what level of sentences they will receive," he said.
An Amish woman leaves the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Cleveland on Thursday.
Miller said he and others in the Amish community in northern Trumbull County will be glad when sentencing is over and they can return to their normal lives.
A federal jury in Cleveland found Mullet Sr., 66, the leader of the breakaway group, guilty of orchestrating the cuttings last fall in an attempt to shame mainstream members who he believed were straying from their beliefs. His followers were found guilty of carrying out the attacks.
The convictions stem from five separate assaults that occurred in four Ohio counties, including Trumbull, between September and November 2011. In each assault, the defendants forcibly removed beard and head hair from practitioners of the Amish faith with whom they had religious disputes.
Facing possible prison terms for conspiracy to violate the Matthew Shepherd-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act are Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Lester S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Shrock, Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller, Linda Shrock and Samuel Mullet Sr.
The act prohibits any person from willfully causing bodily injury to any person or attempting to do so by use of a dangerous weapon, because of the actual or perceived religion of that person.
Warren attorney Jeffrey Goodman says the hate crime conviction likely will set a legal precedent far into the future. Goodman was not involved in the case.
"When you think of hate crimes you think of people involved in different backgrounds, races, sexual orientation or religions," Goodman said. "In this instance, you have hate crime legislation being used when both the criminals and the victims are both part of the same protected class."
Goodman does not believe that was the intention of Congress when the law was created.
"Why is it not just simple assault?" he said. "I think this verdict sets, in many ways, a dangerous precedent and an abuse of the hate crime legislation. The government is using it at its discretion."
Goodman said it is too early to determine what possible sentences the men and women may receive.
"Each case will be looked at individually," Goodman said. "It will depend on their charges, criminal backgrounds, acceptance of responsibility and many other factors. Federal sentencing guidelines are complicated."
"In spite of the guidelines, judges have a lot of discretion on what they may do," he continued.
Attorney Samuel Bluedorn, a former Warren city prosecutor, was shocked by the verdict.
"I don't know much about the Amish faith, but from what I've been told by one of the defense attorneys there are provisions in the religion that provide for the hair cutting," he said. "The U.S. attorney's office may have stretched the hate crime provision a little far, but I did not see all of the evidence."
Sentencing is expected to take place on Jan. 24, 2013.