CLEVELAND (AP) - Nine of 16 Amish convicted in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio have remained free, but the government asked Friday to have them locked up, which could leave up to 50 children with one or both parents behind bars.
By law, "Detention is mandatory for these defendants," the government said.
But prosecutors hedged, saying their strong recommendation for pre-sentence lockup of three of those most involved in the crimes would leave only one family with both parents in jail, not four.
Amish women exit the federal courthouse in Cleveland on Thursday after a jury found all 16 people guilty in the hair- and beard-cutting attacks against fellow Amish in Ohio.
U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster, who presided at the Cleveland trial, gave defense attorneys until Thursday to argue for continued bond for the six women and three men.
Polster has scheduled sentencing for Jan. 24. Ring leader Sam Mullet Sr., 66, faces up to life in prison and the lowest sentencing range for those out on bond is 17 years, the government said.
The defense plans to appeal the convictions.
Brian Pierce, attorney for Elizabeth Miller, 38, the mother of 11 and married to defendant Lester Miller, 37, said he would appeal for leniency in view of her big family and lack of any prior criminal record.
Having both parents in prison poses "an extreme family hardship," Pierce said before the prosecution filing. "They need to make arrangements in the event she is incarcerated."
Lester Miller, Raymond Miller and Linda Schrock were the three whose continued freedom on bond was opposed by prosecutors.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, whose office has investigated Mullet's community for years, said Friday he had received calls from relatives outside the community offering to care for the children if their parents go to prison.
"It's Amish wanting to take these kids in. It's their relatives, it's their uncles, it's their aunts," he said. "That's the Amish, that's their culture. They are loving people, good people, God-fearing people."
When the 16 rejected lenient plea deals July 30, with some possibly getting probation, Polster quizzed the defendants about their understanding of the consequences of a conviction.
He asked the defendants if they understood possible sentences for a conviction, asked their ages and number of children and whether they knew that, in some cases, they could be locked up to age 50 or 60. Most are under 40 years old.
All acknowledged an understanding, but one defense attorney said he wasn't sure they were really aware of the consequences. "It's something beyond their imagination," said Joseph Dubyak.
His client, Linda Schrock, has 10 children with her husband, who was also convicted, and their 20- and 21-year-olds have been looking after the younger children during the trial.
Asked how the families would fare with long prison terms, Dubyak said, "Who knows? Not that it's a good solution, but the Amish are pretty resourceful and they are a family, the church unit. They all kind of work together."