Additional defendants have been added to a bizarre case involving a renegade sect of Amish worshippers who cut the beards and hair of more mainstream Amish. The news of more federal indictments was released on March 30, bringing the number of defendants in the case to 16. Federal officials say that the new defendant group consists of four women who are married to nephews of the outlaw sect's leader.
New indictments include charges for supposedly concealing and destroying evidence, including a bag of hair and the scissors used to cut the hair. One defendant has been accused of making false statements during the course of the investigation.
The charges come after an alleged incident in September 2011, when a group of nine sect members was said to have hired a driver to take them to a home in Trumbull County. When they arrived at the home, they held down a married couple while they allegedly cut the man's beard and the hair on both people's heads. The group also supposedly made off with the woman's bonnet.
Among the new defendants was a woman who provided the satchel used to carry the hair and bonnet, according to official documents. Prosecutors claim that those items were later destroyed per orders issued by the leader of the renegade group.
The group of defendants claims that the alleged crimes have such a small impact on interstate commerce that they should not be federally prosecuted and a state investigation would be more prudent. They also are arguing that they should not be prosecuted under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act because it was designed to protect people from external discrimination, not crimes within the same religion. The defendants assert that the First Amendment allows these actions because they are doctrine-based punishments.
Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "New indictment adds four women to Amish beard-cutting case," Brian Bowling, March 30, 2012