Mitchell sentenced to life in prison for kidnap, rape of Elizabeth Smart

Updated The homeless street preacher convicted of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison after Smart told him that he would be held responsible for his actions “in this life or the next,” Reuters reports.

Smart, who is now 23, addressed Brian David Mitchell before he was sentenced for the June 5, 2002 abduction, a crime that captivated much of America. He was convicted in December.

The homeless street preacher convicted of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart faces a possible life prison term when he is sentenced on Wednesday, during a hearing in which Smart was expected to address him directly.

Reuters says:

Ed Smart has told Reuters his daughter, now 23, considers it important to confront Brian David Mitchell in open court before he is sent to prison for her June 5, 2002 kidnapping and nine-month ordeal, a sensational crime that gripped much of America.

Mitchell, 57, was found guilty by a federal court jury in December of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity.


He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. […]

Mitchell’s estranged wife, Wanda Barzee, was sentenced in May 2010 to a 15-year prison term after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping.

Smart, 14 when Mitchell took her at knifepoint from her upscale Salt Lake City home, testified during the self-styled prophet’s six-week trial in federal court but did not directly address him. […]

She described her time as Mitchell’s captive as “nine months of hell” in which she was at first kept chained by the ankle to a tree and raped nearly every day, often repeatedly, and forced to look at pornography and drink alcohol.

Smart was rescued on March 12, 2003, after passersby spotted her walking with Mitchell and Barzee, on a street in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy.

CNN writes that:

In her testimony, Smart said she awoke to find a man holding a cold steel blade to her neck on June 5, 2002. She was taken from her bed and marched up a rugged mountain path in her red silk pajamas. […]

When they reached Mitchell’s remote camp, Smart testified she was “sealed” to her captor in a marriage ceremony, raped and shackled between two trees with a metal cable. She said she was degraded and treated “like an animal.” […]

She was forced to wear robes and a veil in public and was not permitted to speak to other people. She said she feared Mitchell would act on his threats to kill her and her family if she did.

She said Mitchell told her their marriage was preordained and that she would be by his side as he successfully battled the Antichrist. They would hold exalted positions in God’s new kingdom, she was told.

The The Salt Lake Tribune writes that at his trial

Mitchell’s attorneys argued he was severely mentally ill and acting under the delusional belief that God had ordered him to abduct Smart to make her a plural wife. Mitchell, who disrupted the court by singing hymns each morning, was routinely removed to a room where he could watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit TV.

Barzee testified Mitchell had revelations that he would take at least seven wives and battle the anti-Christ to restore the Mormon church to its true polygamous beginnings. Prior to abducting Smart, Barzee said Mitchell had a revelation telling him to acquire wives by taking young girls by force.

A defense expert testified Mitchell suffers from a disorder in which his delusions are encapsulated and triggered only by religious ideas. Another defense expert claimed Mitchell suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

But prosecution experts told jurors Mitchell did not suffer from any severe mental illness. Rather, they said, he is a pedophile and a psychopath, who also has anti-social and personality disorders.

A 12-member jury deliberated five hours and convicted Mitchell of felony kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.

The Salt Lake Tribune will be providing live coverage of the sentencing hearing on www.sltrib.com, including transcripts and streaming video from the courthouse steps.

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This post was last updated: May. 26, 2011