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Ringleader in Ohio Amish attacks appeals verdict

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Sam Mullet is seen outside his home in Bergholz, Ohio.

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CLEVELAND — The ringleader of 16 Amish found guilty in beard- and hair-cutting hate-crime attacks on fellow members of their faith in Ohio asked an appeals court Wednesday to overturn his conviction.

The attorney for Sam Mullet Sr., 67, of Bergholz near Steubenville, filed the notice of appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The appeal cited issues including the judge's refusal to delay last year's trial in Cleveland or to release Mullet on bond. The appeal also cited testimony about sex involving Mullet and women in his community.

Thirteen defendants have appealed their convictions. The judge said defendants have until Friday to appeal.

They were convicted in five attacks in Ohio Amish communities in 2011 in apparent retaliation against Amish who had defied or denounced Mullet's authoritarian style in the insular community, which shuns many facets of modern life and is deeply religious.

The jury sided with prosecution arguments that the defendants should be found guilty of a hate crime because religious differences brought about the attacks. Amish believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards once they marry. Cutting it would be shameful and offensive.

Mullet was sentenced Feb. 8 to 15 years in prison, while family members convicted of carrying out his orders got sentences ranging from one to seven years.

The defendants had challenged the constitutionality of the federal hate crimes act as overly broad, but the judge rejected the claim before their trial.

Mullet's appeal cited the Dec. 6 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster denying Mullet a new trial.

The defense had said there was insufficient evidence linking Mullet to the attacks. The judge rejected the claim.

While Mullet didn't physically participate in the attacks, “There was extensive evidence showing he was a member of the conspiracy, the object of which was to commit them,” the judge wrote in December.

The request for a new trial also had cited the decision allowing testimony by Mullet's daughter-in-law about her sexual relationship with him. The defense said the testimony was unfairly prejudicial.

Polster said the testimony was allowed at trial because it showed the extent of Mullet's control over the members of his community, “which was directly relevant to counter his defense that he had nothing to do with any of the attacks.”

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