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Amish beard-cutting ringleader sentenced to 15 years

CLEVELAND — The ringleader in hair- and beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.

Before his sentencing, Samuel Mullet Sr. told Judge Dan Aaron Polster in Cleveland that he had been blamed for running a cult and was ready to take the punishment. Polster also sentenced 15 other Amish to prison terms ranging from one to seven years.

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Mullet, his ankles in chains and a white beard down to midchest, 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.

Mullet and his family deny that his community is a cult. The government asked for a life sentence for Mullet. The defense asked for two years or less.

The 10 men and six women were convicted last year in five attacks in Amish communities in 2011. The government said the attacks were retaliation against Amish who had defied or denounced Mullet’s authoritarian style.

Amish believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards once they marry. Cutting the hair is offensive to Amish.

The defendants were charged with a hate crime because prosecutors believe religious differences brought about the attacks.

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