Saturday, September 22, 2012

Amish sect convicted of federal crimes

Erik Eckholm reports in the New York Times yesterday that members of an Amish sect living in an isolated valley in Ohio were convicted on Thursday of federal conspiracy and hate crimes committed last fall against other Amish in eastern Ohio.  This is an update on the story covered earlier hereherehere, herehere, here, and here.  Prosecutors had argued that because the crimes were motivated by religious differences, they were hate crimes, while some of the defendants had admitted to committing the act but characterized them as a "family feud."  None of the defendants called any witnesses in their defense.  

In this latest report, Eckholm describes Samuel Mullett, Sr., as the "domineering leader of a renegade Amish sect."  A Cleveland jury decided the fate of Mullett, along with 15 of his followers also charged in the attacks.  An excerpt from Eckholm's story follows:
The verdicts were a vindication for federal prosecutors, who made a risky decision to apply a 2009 federal hate-crimes law to the sect's violent efforts to humiliate Amish rivals. 
Defense lawyers in the case and an independent legal expert had argued that the government was overreaching by turning a personal vendetta within the Amish community, and related attacks, into a federal hate-crimes case.  But the jury accepted the prosecutors' description of the attacks as an effort to suppress the victims' practice of religion, finding Mr. Mullet and other defendants guilty on nearly all the charges they faced of conspiracy, hate crimes and obstruction of justice.  
Sentencing of the 16 defendants is scheduled for January, 2013; they could face lengthy prison terms.

I wonder if a Cleveland jury was effectively a "jury of one's peers" for purposes of deciding this matter, though I certainly have no quarrel with the outcome.

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