Leader of self-proclaimed religious group refuses plea bargain

MANTI,Utah (News4Utah) - John Coltharp will not accept a plea offer.

Coltharp is a self-proclaimed leader of a religious group, the Knights of the Crystal Blade.  But he is facing charges of child sex abuse, child abuse and bigamy.

Coltharp was arrested in December following an Amber Alert.  He and his second in command Samuel Shaffer are accused of hiding their daughters in a storage container in Iron County.  They are both involved in divorces and did not return their daughters to their mothers.  Both men are accused of marrying each other’s daughter as well as marrying their own daughters as part of their religious beliefs according to authorities.

Wednesday, Coltharp appeared in Sanpete County hours after Shaffer pleaded guilty to related crimes in Iron County.  The county attorney in Sanpete said Coltharp was aware of Shaffer’s admission of guilt.

But during Wednesday hearing, the judge was made aware of a plea offer for Coltharp. 

He told the judge he refused the deal.

“Yes that is accurate (that he waived his preliminary hearing),” Coltharp said in court. “There is no point in holding a preliminary hearing.  The chance it not being bound over for trial is obviously zero.  So I don't want to waste everybody's time.  I am not interested in taking a plea deal right now.”

The deal that fell through would have Coltharp pleading guilty to a first-degree felony related to the child sex charges.

The Sanpete County attorney said his offer is firm.

“I have a certain thing that I want out of this case,” said Kevin Daniels.  “(One) that I believe the children will be well served by justice and that they spend a long time in prison."

Daniels said if Coltharp is holding out for a better offer it will not happen.  He said his offer requires Coltharp to serve a 25-years to life in prison.

Shaffer was also charged in Sanpete County and will return for a hearing in March.  Coltharp is also scheduled for another hearing in late March.

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