May 25, 2011 / 12:16 PM / 8 years ago

Elizabeth Smart kidnapper could face life in prison

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - 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.

Elizabeth Smart talks to the media after Brian David Mitchell, a homeless street preacher, was found guilty of kidnapping then teenager Smart in June 2002, outside federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah, in this December 10, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Michael Brandy/Files

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.

“We are hoping that he does receive a life sentence because the last thing we want to do is hear about another girl that he has hurt like he did Elizabeth,” Ed Smart said.

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.

Mitchell was ejected from the courtroom daily, including during Smart’s testimony, for disrupting the proceedings with loud singing.

Smart returned to Utah two weeks ago after completing a mission in Paris for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons.

Smart’s terrifying abduction in the middle of the night from the bed she shared with her sister made international headlines, and a nine-month search for the missing teen was covered exhaustively on U.S. news programs.

In dramatic testimony, Smart told the court Mitchell woke her up with a knife to her throat and marched her into the foothills above Salt Lake City, where he pronounced her his wife, then raped her in a make-shift encampment.

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.

Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton

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