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Appeals court overturns convictions in Amish hair hate-crime attacks

An appeals court Wednesday overturned hate-crime convictions for 16 attacks on Amish communities in 2011.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the jury had "received incorrect instructions about how to weigh the role of religion in the attacks," according to The Associated Press. The attacks involved the cutting of Amish peoples' beards and hair in Ohio neighborhoods. AP reports that the attacks, which were perpetrated by fellow Amish, were "apparent retaliation" for those who had "denounced the authoritarian style" of local leader Sam Mullet, Sr.

"When all is said and done, considerable evidence supported the defendants' theory that interpersonal and intra-family disagreements, not the victims' religious beliefs, sparked the attacks," the ruling stated. Prosecutors had argued that the attacks were hate crimes, since they were the result of "religious differences," but today, the court ruled that religious beliefs were not responsible for the assaults.

Mullet, 69, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2013 for encouraging the attacks. He was also tried in 2008 for asking a woman "to have sex with him for religious reasons." Prosecutors argue the 2008 case proves "the high level of the control" Mullet had over the Amish community near Steubenville, Ohio.