All 16 defendants have appealed, arguing that the group's conviction, sentencing and imprisonment in separate facilities as far away as Louisiana, Minnesota and Connecticut violates their constitutional rights and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, an argument prosecutors reject.
The defendants say the distance to the facilities is too great to travel by horse-drawn buggy or even by using a hired driver, so most of their families likely won't be able to visit.
The five reporting to prison Friday said they're somewhat scared and not sure what to expect, but they're hopeful about being released early for good behavior. They're sewing clothes, plowing ground and finishing other chores to make life easier for their loved ones who will remain in the community. Two women were bracing for their first plane ride, to prisons in Minnesota.
Their departure will leave nearly three dozen children without at least one parent, and some without both because their fathers already are incarcerated, so the adults have made alternative arrangements. In some cases, older siblings will look after younger ones. The spouses and 15 children of two defendants, Anna Miller and Freeman Burkholder, are merging under one roof while they serve their one-year sentences. Lovina Miller is beginning a similar sentence and giving Martha Mullet custody of her eight children until she returns because her husband is in Massachusetts on a seven-year sentence.
Before the trial, the Amish rejected plea agreements that offered leniency and could have helped some of the young mothers avoid prison.
Several said Tuesday that they rejected those deals either because they didn't want to admit guilt to a hate crime charge or they didn't want to testify against Mullet Sr. and say things they don't believe.
The community members say they're working together to ensure the group perseveres by handling home repairs and various chores that would have been the responsibility of the incarcerated members, with the remaining men especially bearing the burden of extra work. Among them is the 19-year-old grandson who took over running Sam Mullet Sr.'s 700-acre farm.