CLEVELAND (AP) — Twelve members of a breakaway Amish group pleaded not guilty Wednesday to beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in a feud over church discipline.
The seven original defendants arrested in November and five more added in an indictment returned last month entered the pleas in the crowded federal courtroom.
U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster refused a defense appeal to release on bond the suspected ringleader, Samuel Mullet Sr., 66, and his son, Johnny Mullet, 37, both of Bergholz, near Steubenville in eastern Ohio.
A feud over church discipline allegedly led to five attacks in which the beards and hair of men and hair of women were cut, which is considered deeply offensive in Amish culture.
The seven-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering in what prosecutors say were hate crimes motivated by religious differences.
Samuel Mullet Sr., handcuffed at the wrists and ankles, his beard reaching the V-neck of his orange jail outfit, watched from the jury box and nodded occasionally as his attorney, Ed Bryan, argued that Mullet wasn't a risk of violence or flight.
He said Mullet should be freed pending trial because he has no criminal record and has ties to the community, including scores of grandchildren.
Any suggestion that Mullet could be violent or flee "is not a legitimate fear," Bryan said.
The government said in a court filing before the arraignment that Mullet could not be trusted to appear in court when ordered and sending officers to his farm compound to get him could lead to "the risk of tragic consequences."
Because the compound doesn't have electricity, release with electronic monitoring wasn't an option, the judge said.