Amish say families will suffer if bond revoked

September 27, 2012 - 3:35 PM

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Putting all of the Amish men and women convicted in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish behind bars now during harvest season would create a financial hardship for their families and could leave their children hungry this winter, their lawyers said.

Nine of the 16 Amish people convicted a week ago have remained free, but the government wants them locked up before they are sentenced early next year.

Defense attorneys for some of those who have been out on bond say their clients don't pose a threat to anyone and that they have not been in trouble before, according to court documents filed Thursday.

A federal jury in Cleveland convicted all of the defendants of hate crimes in the hair attacks last fall that prosecutors said stemmed from religious disputes among the Amish in eastern Ohio. Prosecutors say they targeted hair because it carries spiritual significance in their faith.

The leader of the group was found guilty of orchestrating the cuttings in an attempt to shame mainstream members who he believed were straying from their beliefs. His followers were found guilty of carrying out the attacks, which terrorized the normally peaceful religious settlement.

Following the convictions, prosecutors said detention is mandatory for the defendants and asked that bond be revoked. U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster is weighing the request.

The defense plans to appeal the convictions.

Several of the people convicted are married, and prison terms could leave close to 50 children with one or both parents behind bars.

The attorney for one woman says she should be allowed to remain free until sentencing, in part, because she's busy harvesting crops and canning food for her 10 children.

"She is the sole support of these children. She does the housework, washes the clothes, cooks all the meals and does the sole parenting duties," wrote Joseph Dubyak, an attorney for Linda Schrock. Her husband, who also was convicted in the case, has been jailed since his arrest.

Lester Miller, who has remained free, works on a construction crew and his family will rely on the money he makes and saves over the next few months until his sentence is completed, said his attorney, Dean Caro. "The possibility of saving as much money as possible before being imprisoned is not one to be taken lightly," Caro said.

Miller, who has 11 children under the age of 16, is also needed at home for the fall harvest and to preserve food for the winter, his attorney said.

"If Mr. Miller is detained before the canning season, his family may not have adequate reserves of food for the coming winter," Caro said.