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The Sanpete Messenger

Coltharp trial date set for early July

John Coltharp

Coltharp trial date set for early July

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

Mar. 29, 2018

 

MANTI—John Coltharp, in the highly publicized child kidnapping case from Sanpete and Iron Counties, had his trial date set for July in Manti District Court by Judge Marvin Bagley on Wednesday, March 21.

Coltharp, 34, of Spring City, has two cases in Sanpete County.

In the first, he is charged with sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, and child bigamy, a second-degree felony.

In the other case, his is charged with child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.

Coltharp appeared for a pretrial conference with his appointed attorney, Paul Frischknecht. Judge Bagley asked the parties if they were ready to set the date for trial.

Frischknecht told the judge he and Coltharp were ready to set a trial date. Frischknecht told the judge the trial would take “quite some time” as there were multiple witnesses and voluminous evidence. In fact, Frischknecht told the judge they were still waiting to receive some electronic evidence back from the FBI.

Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels confirmed the parties were still waiting on evidence from the FBI, where the FBI was examining computers seized from the two codefendants.

Daniels also said there was the possibility for further charges depending on what surfaces from the FBI. However, Daniels said he was also ready to set a trial date.

Bagley asked Coltharp if he was ready to set a trial date.

Coltharp told Bagley, “For now, let’s take it to trial.” When Bagley asked Coltharp if that meant he would waive time in order to set the trial date, he replied, “Absolutely.”

Frischknecht and Daniels agreed that it would take three weeks of trial time to try the case.

Daniels suggested the court may have to draw a larger jury pool than usual, based on the unusual nature of the charges, the notoriety the case has drawn in the media and also since Coltharp’s father’s position as a former city councilman in Spring City.

Bagley set the trial for July 9 through July 27. A pretrial conference was also set for May 2 at 11 a.m. in order to make sure the parties are still ready to go to trial in July.

Daniels said concerning the possibility of reaching a plea deal, “I don’t care if he takes a deal. I intend to hold him accountable for his actions.”

Also, Daniels responded on effects a trial may have on the child victims: “I believe the victims are the real superheroes for being willing to testify. We are going to show that society does not approve of this behavior.”
Frischknecht said concerning the possibility of a plea deal that he thinks his client is being held back by his beliefs: “He has a hard time saying, ‘guilty.’”

Codefendant Shaffer, 34, of Cedar City appeared to make his initial appearance in Sanpete County on charges here.

Shaffer was charged with two counts of sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, child bigamy and obstruction of justice, second-degree felonies, and lewdness involving a child, a class A misdemeanor.

Shaffer, appearing by video feed from the Iron County jail, requested a court-appointed defense attorney.

David Angerhofer was appointed to represent Shaffer. Angerhofer requested a waiver of preliminary hearing be set and requested Shaffer be transported to Sanpete County before the next hearing so he could consult with his client.

Bagley set the waiver of preliminary hearing for April 4 at 10 a.m. and ordered Shaffer to be transported to Sanpete County the day before the next hearing.

Shaffer had to appear by video because he also had court in Iron County.

Shaffer had entered a guilty plea on Feb. 21 to rape of a child, a first-degree felony and child abuse, a second-degree felony.

He was originally scheduled to be sentenced on April 21 to a possible sentence of 25 years to life in prison on the first count and one to 15 years in prison on the second count.

However, Shaffer had sent a handwritten letter to the Iron County court earlier this month saying he “was not mentally or emotionally prepared” to enter a guilty plea.

Shaffer contended he felt pressured by his attorney to accept the plea deal: “I felt like he twisted my arm because he was worried I would not do it. Afterward, I had an emotional and mental breakdown, which put me on suicide watch until the 27th” of February.

Shaffer argued, “I have the presence of mind now to say that I intend to go to trial. I did not commit the offenses.”

Judge Matthew Bell ruled “the defendant knowingly and voluntarily entered into the plea agreement. Therefore, the motion to withdraw defendant’s plea is denied.”

Shaffer is now scheduled to be sentenced on May 8.