The leader of 16 Ohio Amish men and women convicted of hate crimes for cutting the hair and beards of fellow members of their faith is arguing that federal prosecutors are assassinating his character in the face of weak evidence.

Samuel Mullet Jr.'s attorneys argued in a court filing Monday that the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reject a request from prosecutors to uphold his conviction and 15-year prison sentence.

The court could rule any time.

Mullet's attorneys argue that the government overstepped its bounds in prosecuting him and that the 2011 hair- and beard-cuttings of fellow members didn't amount to hate crimes.

Prosecutors argue that the acts were ritualistic violence based on religion and were designed to shame fellow Amish accused of straying from strict religious interpretations.