Coltharp changes mind about representing himself, pretrial still set for May 30

Coltharp changes mind about representing himself, pretrial still set for May 30


By James Tilson

Staff writer



MANTI—A Spring City man charged with child kidnapping, sodomy and child bigamy told the Sixth district Court last Wednesday he wanted to represent himself at trial, although by the end of the hearing he had agreed to go forward with an attorney.

John Alvin Coltharp, facing charges of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, sodomy, a first-degree felony and child bigamy, a second-degree felony, told Judge Marvin Bagley he wanted to represent himself at the trial scheduled for the first week of July, with his attorney Paul Frischknect available as a resource.

John Coltharp

According to these charges, Coltharp and his co-defendant Samuel Shaffer married and sexually abused each other’s daughters, while hiding their actions from authorities. Coltharp and Shaffer were leaders of a fundamentalist religion they called Knights of the Crystal Blade.

Coltharp also said he wanted to speak directly to Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels before trial. Judge Bagley, reminding him that anything he said prior to trial can and will be used against him, asked him why he wanted to speak directly to Daniels.

Coltharp told the judge he wanted to counter-act all the negative information floating around about him in the media. “My motives may not be those of the typical defendant,” he said. He would be willing to speak to the media because “there’s a lot of truth there,” but certain parts were distorted, he said.

Frischknect told Judge Bagley he only found out earlier in the day about Coltharp’s request to represent himself, and speak to the media. Frischknect advised Coltharp against it, saying “it would be a mistake.”

Bagley then addressed Coltharp himself. He told Coltharp in order to prepare for trial, he should have knowledge of the laws of evidence, trial procedure and appellate law. “You will be at an extreme disadvantage,” Bagley said. With a first-degree felony having a potential sentence of five years to life in prison, “you should not do that.”

However, Bagley admitted Coltharp has a constitutional right to represent himself. “I can’t force you to keep your attorney, but I would like you to think about it.”

Coltharp replied, “I have thought about it. Anyone who knows me would say I don’t make rash decisions.”

Frischknect, advising the judge, said, “If one insists on digging his own grave…” and then pointedly looking over at Coltharp, who nodded his head, “well, we’ve had that discussion.” Both Frischknect and Daniels agreed Coltharp had been fully advised of his rights and could make his own decision.

Coltharp further explained his decision. “I never thought I had a chance, whether I’m innocent or not, so I want to present the facts as I know them.”

Frischknect said he was not sure he wanted to continue on as advisory counsel and asked to meet with counsel and the judge in chambers. Court recessed, and the meeting began. An hour later, the attorneys came out and met with Coltharp while Judge Bagley continued on with his remaining calendar.

When Coltharp and the attorneys came back out, Bagley asked, “Anything new?”

Frischknect told the judge that the trial date should stay as set, but another