Polygamist Cult Leader’s Shocking Move: Guilty Plea in Jeopardy as Co-Defendants Reject Offers

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Samuel Bateman (48), leader of a sect of polygamists near the Arizona/Utah Border, is in a precarious situation because two co-defendants have rejected parallel offers by prosecutors. This condition was crucial for Bateman’s guilty plea and could lead to his withdrawal. Bateman, 48, faces 51 felony charges related to child marriages or sexual activities after the high-profile raid on the compound of the polygamist sect in September 2022.

Bateman was originally arrested by Arizona State Police in Flagstaff in August 2022 after a passerby noticed small fingers sticking out of a gap in a trailer. Authorities found three girls between the ages of 11 and 14, who were trapped in a trailer that lacked ventilation and amenities. It only contained a sofa and camping chairs, as well as a makeshift bathroom.

Bateman was freed on bond but was arrested the following month for federal charges of obstruction of justice.

Bateman began his recruitment campaign in 2019 by falsely claiming that Warren Jeffs had died in prison. Jeffs was the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Bateman claimed to be Jeff’s successor and gathered about 50 followers, who called themselves “Samuelites.”

Documents filed with the U.S. District Court of Arizona revealed that Bateman was married to more than 20 women, half of whom were underage. The youngest of these underage women was only 9 years old.

Bateman pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges and conspiracy to transport minors over state lines. Prosecutors claim that this was all part of an ongoing plan to facilitate sexual activity involving children.

While Bateman and his two co-defendants will be tried, the prosecutors have the option to withdraw Bateman’s guilty plea. However, they are not required to do so by Bateman’s plea agreement. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of Phoenix has not yet stated whether it will exercise this choice.

Myles Schneider, Bateman’s lawyer, told the Associated Press:

We have yet to see it. It’s not on the docket.

The plea agreement for Bateman recommends a prison sentence ranging from 20-50 years. However, a conviction could result in a life-long prison sentence. Bateman, 48, confessed in his guilty plea to having married underage girls and engaging in sexual activity with them. He also admitted to organizing group sex sessions, which sometimes involved child brides.

Authorities say Bateman established an extensive network across four states — Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska — as he splintered from the FLDS, historically centered in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.

Bateman, and his followers, adhere to polygamy. This is a practice that has been condemned by the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church). The practice was discontinued officially in 1890.

Authorities claim that two men indicted in the case purchased luxury vehicles for Bateman. The male co-defendant who bought the Range Rover purchased two Bentleys. Hearings have been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in front of U.S. district judge Susan Brnovich, to discuss the pleas that Bateman’s other co-defendants declined.

Bateman is currently scheduled to be sentenced on July 15th.