Shaffer pleads guilty, sentenced to 15-year to life for child sodomy
By James Tilson
MANTI—The co-founder of the Knights of the Crystal Blade has entered a guilty plea in a negotiation where he will testify against his co-defendant.
Samuel Shaffer pleaded guilty to one count of sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony. The remaining four counts of his indictment were dismissed.
Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels told Judge Marvin Bagley that Shaffer was guilty of engaging in oral copulation with a child under the age of 14, as part of his association with the Knights of the Crystal Blade cult.
Daniels explained to Bagley that Shaffer was getting a lenient plea deal because of his willingness to testify against his co-defendant, John Coltharp. Shaffer’s testimony was the “tipping point” leading to Coltharp’s own guilty plea on June 13.
As part of the plea deal, Daniels had agreed that Shaffer could be sentenced to only 15 years to life, which was shorter than the statutory range of 25 years to life for a first-degree felony. Daniels explained that Utah statute 76-5-403.1(4)(a)(3)(i) allowed for this deviation when it was in the “interest of justice.”
Judge Bagley, accepting the recommendation from Daniels, said he understood how much work went into crafting the plea agreement, as well as his own desire to spare the victim of the crime from having to testify in open court against Shaffer.
Bagley asked Shaffer if he had anything to say before he was sentenced. Shaffer replied, “More than anything, I want the victim to know it’s OK that she [would] testify against me, and she shouldn’t feel guilty about it.”
Bagley then asked Shaffer why he did it. Shaffer said, “I sincerely believed child marriage was a correct principle from God. Since I’ve seen the impact on the victim, I now think that it is a wrong view.”