CLEVELAND (WKYC) -- It's prisonfor all 16 members of an Amish breakaway group convicted of conspiracy.
Samuel Mullet, the ringleader of the hair- and beard-cutting attacks, will serve 15 years in federal prison.
Judge Daniel Polster said it best -- "If you think this trial was about hair and beard cutting, you weren't paying attention."
It was always about religious freedom, something the jury and Polstertake seriously. He saved the harshest punishment for the community'sbishop and unequaled ring leader, 67-year-old Sam Mullet to prison forwhat could amount to the rest of his life.
Even as helearned hisfate, Samuel Mullet claimed no responsibilityfor the hair- and beard-cutting attacks that terrorized other Amish.
He spoke to the court: "I am being blamed for being a cult leader. Iam not going to be here much longer. My goal in life is to help theyounger people. If somebody needs to be punished, I'll take thepunishment for everyone. Let the mothers and fathers go home to theirchildren."
But U.S. District Judge Daniel Polster didn't agree, sentencing the other 15 from one to seven years behind bars.
"They were more than symbolic crimes, they were physically violent,hate filled acts, designed to terrorize our community and designed toundermine our Constitutional protections," said U.S. Attorney SteveDettlebach.
Polster and the jury agreed it was the freedom of religion -- thesame right that allows Mullet and his followers to run their ownschools, avoid serving in the military and on a jury -- thatwasviolated.
"While they hold dear the right to pray as they please, evidentiallyhave no respect at all for our nation's promise that everyone. Everysingle person can pray as they wish," Polster said.
Mullet will serve 15 years, his right-hand men, 7 years. Meanwhile, the Amish will move on.
"I know that the rather significant Amish community we have in mycounty, Holmes County, will sleep better tonight knowing that SamMullet's going to be in prison," said Steve Knowling, the prosecutor inHolmes County who started the original stateproceedings.
Seven of the men who are currently incarcerated will stay that way.Thedefendants out on bond will have until April to report to theirassigned prisons, except Elizabeth Miller.
Elizabeth's one year and one day sentence will be deferred until twoof the other women return from prison, for the sake of the children.
Appeals of course are likely to be filed.Knowling says it seems inhis community, this trial has forever changed the relationship betweenthe law and the Amish.