By Thomas J. Sheeran
CLEVELAND — Jurors deciding whether a breakaway Amish group in Ohio committed hate crimes in beard- and hair-cutting attacks are zeroing in on the conspiracy charge.
The federal jury in Cleveland federal began a fourth day of deliberations Wednesday in the trial of 16 Amish. Jurors promptly asked the judge if a conspiracy could involve just some of the defendants.
Judge Dan Aaron Polster told the jury that a conspiracy wouldn't necessarily need to involve all nine victims or all 16 defendants.
The government calls the attacks hate crimes based on religious difference. The defense says it was an internal church dispute and doesn't rise to a criminal level.
Prosecutors say the defendants cut off Amish men's beards and women's hair because the hair carries spiritual significance in their faith. They could face lengthy prison terms if convicted.
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