U.S. says hate crime charges OK in beard-cutting case
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The federal government says the prosecution of Amish sect leader Sam Mullet and 15 of his followers in Ohio under the federal hate crimes statute does not violate the U.S. Constitution and should proceed to trial.
Lawyers for Mr. Mullet, 66, and the other defendants -- charged with carrying out a series of violent beard-cutting attacks on other Amish last year and concealing evidence -- have argued that the government's case should be dismissed because the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act should not apply to a dispute within a religion.
The lawyers have also said that Congress exceeded its authority in passing the law, that the act violates the Constitution because hate crimes don't affect interstate commerce and that the beard-cuttings are, at worst, assault cases to be handled by the Ohio courts, not the federal system.
Justice Department lawyers this week fired back, saying the defendants "were properly indicted under the act" and that the law "represents a proper exercise of Congressional authority to enact legislation" to prosecute crimes motivated by bias."
First Published April 19, 2012 12:00 am