"Department of Justice" by Scott licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Accused Amish hair cutters say no deal

Today Samuel Mullet and other Amish men and women the United States Justice Department accuses of hate crimes rejected a plea offer that included jail sentences many times shorter than the decades-long sentences they could face if found guilty.  The Amish chose instead to go to trial on the government’s charges that they forcibly cut the hair and shaved the beards of other Amish with whom they were having an intra-faith dispute.  They deny they were motivated by anti-Amish bias or committed any “hate crimes.”

Earlier in the case, CIR filed an amicus brief in which we argued in favor of dismissing the indictment on the ground that the acts charged, which all took place in Ohio, had so little connection with interstate commerce that the indictment failed to charge an offense reachable by Congress under the Commerce Clause.

The judge hearing the case disagreed.  He ruled that because scissors and hair clippers used in the alleged attacks had once traveled in interstate commerce (before the defendants purchased them in Ohio), and because the alleged perpetrators traveled within Ohio to the sites of the attacks in hired vehicles (which might have crossed state lines in the past), the charged acts had enough of a “nexus” with interstate commerce to make the indictment valid under the Commerce Clause.

CIR intends to challenge this ruling later in the case.

Photo: “Department of Justice” by Scott licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.