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Self-styled Utah prophet gets 15 years for child sodomy

The Associated Press
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In this Feb. 20, 2018, file photo, Samuel Shaffer stands during a court hearing in Cedar City, Utah. Shaffer, a self-styled Utah prophet who led a doomsday cult and secretly married young girls because of his beliefs in polygamy has been sentenced to at least 15 years in prison. (James Dobson/The Spectrum via AP, Pool, File)
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This undated file photo provided by the Iron County Sheriff's office shows Samuel Shaffer. Shaffer, a self-styled Utah prophet who led a doomsday cult and secretly married young girls because of his beliefs in polygamy has been sentenced to at least 15 years in prison. (Iron County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — A self-styled Utah prophet who led a doomsday cult and secretly married young girls because of his beliefs in polygamy has been sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.

Samuel Shaffer, 35, was sentenced Wednesday in the small central city of Manti after pleading guilty to one felony count of child sodomy, the Desert News reported.

Other charges were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea, including bigamy, lewdness involving a child and an additional sodomy count.

Shaffer was charged in December 2017 after police raided a remote desert compound in Iron County and found four girls. He was accused of abusing an 8-year-old girl related to a member of his group called Knights of the Crystal Blade.

His fellow self-styled prophet, John Coltharp, 34, married the other two young girls. Coltharp pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy charges earlier this month. His sentencing is scheduled for August.

At the hearing Wednesday, Shaffer told Judge Marvin Bagley that he had hoped to have a family and grow old with the child.

“I sincerely believed that child marriage was a correct principle from God. And I’ve seen the consequences of what’s happened, and I know that I shouldn’t have done it now,” Shaffer said. “But I sincerely believed that the practice was correct at the time.”

Shaffer was sentenced last month to at least 26 years in prison after pleading guilty to child rape and abuse charges. The new sentence won’t extend his prison term.

“I’m not aware of any religion in this world that justifies an adult having a sexual relationship with an 8-year-old girl,” the judge said. “Certainly it’s a violation of Utah law.”

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