Indictment: Amish Photographed Forcible Hair, Beard Cuttings
The FBI has recovered a disposable camera that reportedly was used to photograph Amish men and women whose beards and hair were forcibly shaved in what is now being prosecuted as a federal hate crime.
That detail is contained in a new, expanded 10-count federal indictment just returned by a grand jury in Cleveland. The indictment increases the number of defendants from seven to 16.
The victims and the defendants in the case are Amish - traditionally pacifists who usually resolve their disputes internally without law enforcement. The beards and hair of the victims were sheared, federal court documents allege, to disgrace the victims as punishment for “previous and ongoing religious disagreements” with members of the Amish faith in Ohio.
The 16 defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the superseding indictment on April 19 in Cleveland. They are accused of conspiracy and violating the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, enacted in 2009.
During the assaults, the attackers took pictures “to memorialize the appearances of certain victims,” the new indictment says. After the FBI began an investigation, with seven initial arrests on Nov. 23, some of those involved in the alleged conspiracy were told to “conceal the camera from law enforcement” or dispose of it.
In December, the camera was placed into plastic bags and buried under vegetative debris at the foot of a tree in a wooded area on the property of the Amish bishop accused of orchestrating the attacks. On March 16, the man who hid the camera - identified in court documents only as “J.M.” - dug it up and turned it over to the FBI, court documents say.