WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury has indicted four more women over a rash of bizarre beard-cutting incidents against fellow Amish in Ohio, the US Justice Department said Wednesday.
A total of 16 people — 10 men and six women — have now been accused in what prosecutors called five “religiously-motivated assaults” between September and November.
The four new defendants named were Lovina Miller, Kathryn Miller, Emma Miller and Elizabeth Miller, who had not previously been charged. They are all married to nephews of Samuel Mullet, the accused ringleader of the attacks.
The 10-count superseding indictment also adds charges against some of the defendants for concealing and destroying evidence, including a disposable camera, shears and a bag of hair from victims of the attacks.
Mullet, the bishop of the Amish community in the village of Bergholz, Ohio, was also additionally charged of making false statements to federal agents during the investigation.
Many of the other accused are members of Mullet’s own family.
In each assault, the defendants assaulted and harmed their victims by “forcibly cutting off their beards and head hair and causing them other physical injuries because of previous and ongoing religious disagreements,” the indictment said.
It noted that “beards and head hair are symbols of the Amish religion” in explaining the harm done to the victims.
The assaults involved scissors and battery-powered clippers to forcibly cut or shave the beard hair of the male victims and the head hair of the female victims. They also used eight-inch (20-centimeter) horse mane shears “sharp enough to cut through leather,” according to the indictment.
The defendants were indicted for violating a federal law against causing, or trying to cause, bodily harm with a dangerous weapon because of the actual or perceived religion of that person.
In addition, Mullet and three others, including one not indicted for bodily harm, were charged with concealing or trying to conceal evidence, including photographs and an over-the-counter drug allegedly placed in a beverage consumed by one victim.
The Amish, a close-knit Mennonite Christian community that predominantly dwells in the central US states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, shun modern conveniences such as electricity and motor vehicles.