Cincinnati, OH (WSPD) - An appeals court has overturned hate-crime convictions of 16 Amish found guilty in beard and hair-cutting attacks on fellow members of their faith in Ohio. 

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Wednesday sided with arguments brought by attorneys for the Amish found guilty two years ago in five attacks in Ohio Amish communities in 2011. The attacks were in apparent retaliation against Amish who had defied or denounced the authoritarian style of leader Sam Mullet Sr. 

Mullet's attorney, Edward Bryan, is hoping that the decision brings is client closer to freedom. Bryan says that Mullet was not involved in the attacks and that the prosecution created a carnival atmosphere during the trial, painting Mullet as a cult leader. 

Bryan explains that the appeal was based on the vague definition of "hate crime" that was passes by Congress when it created the law. He contends the beard and hair-cutting incidents were domestic or family disputes. 

Bryan said the next move is up to federal prosecutors, who can ask the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mullet was accused of orchestrating the cuttings in an attempt to shame mainstream members who he believed were straying from their beliefs. 

Prosecutors called the attacks hate crimes because religious differences brought about the attacks.

The defense had said there was insufficient evidence linking Mullet to the hair-cutting.