SALT LAKE CITY — The purported leader of a doomsday cult who pleaded guilty in February to raping a child is still writing letters to the judge asking to withdraw his plea.
The judge, however, previously denied his request.
Samuel Warren Shaffer, 34, of Cedar City, pleaded guilty on Feb. 21 to rape of a child, a first-degree felony carrying a potential sentence of 25 years to life in prison, and one count of child abuse, a second-degree felony punishable by one to 15 years in prison. He was originally charged with two counts of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and four counts of child abuse, a second-degree felony.
But after entering into that plea deal, Shaffer sent a letter to 5th District Judge Matthew Bell asking to withdraw his plea.
Shaffer claimed he "was not mentally or emotionally prepared" to take a plea deal on that day. He wrote that he felt pressured by his attorney to take the deal.
"I feel like he twisted my arm because he was worried I would not do it," the letter states. "I have the presence of mind now to say that I intend to go to trial. I did not commit the offenses."
But on March 21, the judge ruled: "The court finds that the defendant knowingly and voluntarily entered into the plea agreement. Therefore, the motion to withdraw defendant's plea is denied."
Since then, the judge has received at least two more letters from Shaffer, on March 22 and March 30.
"I do have evidence, and also evidence which is soon forthcoming which has not been considered," Shaffer wrote in his letter on March 30.
Shaffer claims he is going to get a letter from his "mental health professional" that will help his argument for a new hearing, he wrote.
"I wish for my trial, and even though the family was cited as a reason not to grant it, yet I feel and believe that they deserve to have it also. I did not commit the charges, and they deserve to have the truth."
In his March 22 letter, Shaffer talks about a revelation he said he received "commanding me to be harmless as a dove, like it says in the Sermon on the Mount" when presented with the plea deal offer.
Shaffer wrote that while he "has not been right mentally" before, he is on psychotic medication now.
He is scheduled to be sentenced May 8.
Shaffer is also charged in Sanpete County 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. That case will now move forward.3 comments on this story
Shaffer is the alleged leader of a religious group called the Knights of the Crystal Blade. He, along with John Alvin Coltharp, 34, of Spring City, are accused of kidnapping their young daughters and marrying them to each other.
Coltharp is charged in one case in Sanpete County with sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, and child bigamy, a second-degree felony. He faces charges of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, in an additional case.
At his last court hearing, Coltharp waived his preliminary hearing and rejected a plea deal offer from prosecutors, setting up a potential trial in July.