Prosecutors say a newly released photo showing an Amish man grabbing the beard of another Amish man in an attempt to cut it off is evidence of a hate crime.
The photo is part of the evidence prosecutors are using to prove their case against Samuel Mullet and 15 members of his breakaway Amish group in Ohio. Mullet and his followers are on trial for attempting to use horse shears to cut the beards of ex-communicated members of the Amish culture.
Prosecutors say Mullet ordered the attack, and he is seen in the photograph grabbing Raymon Hershberger’s beard as he attempts to cut it off.
Federal prosecutors are trying to convince jurors that the beard-cutting was the result of a religious dispute and should be considered a hate crime. In the Amish faith, beards are considered sacred religious symbols, and cutting a beard is considered a grave insult that leaves the shorn man disfigured.
Mullet and his followers have denied the charges, claiming the government should not be involved in their religious affairs and that none of the actions involved hate or religious bias.
If Mullet is convicted, he and his followers could face years in prison.