CLEVELAND — A hair-cutting attack on an Amish bishop left him so ashamed that he stopped preaching and refused to attend a family wedding because he did not want anyone to see him without his beard, his son testified Wednesday at the trial of 16 Amish men and women accused of carrying out a series of hate crimes on church leaders in Ohio.
In the minutes after the surprise encounter last fall, Andy Hershberger said he looked toward his 77-year-old father. Gray clumps of hair covered the floor where he sat.
‘‘He was shaking all over,’’ Hershberger said. ‘‘He was crying and crying.’’
Federal prosecutors say that a dispute between the leader of a breakaway Amish group and other bishops who sought to overrule his authoritarian methods led to the hair- and beard-cutting attacks that struck fear into Ohio’s normally peaceful Amish community.
Those accused of taking part in the attacks targeted the hair and beards of Amish bishops because of its spiritual significance in the faith, prosecutors said.
Most Amish men do not shave their beards after marriage, believing it signifies their devotion to God.
Prosecutors say there were five attacks last fall, orchestrated by Sam Mullet Sr., who two decades ago established an Amish settlement outside the town of Bergholz. The defendants could face lengthy prison terms if convicted on charges including conspiracy and obstructing justice. Mullet denied ordering the attacks but said he didn’t stop anyone from carrying them out.