SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The homeless street preacher convicted of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison after Smart told him he would be held responsible for his actions “in this life or the next.”
Smart, who is now 23, confronted Brian David Mitchell in a packed courtroom before he was sentenced for the June 5, 2002 abduction, a sensational crime that captivated much of America nearly a decade ago. He was convicted in December.
“I know exactly what you did. I know you know what you did was wrong. You you did it with full knowledge,” Smart said, looking directly at Mitchell, 57, and speaking forcefully during brief remarks in federal court in Salt Lake City.
“I also want you to know that I have a wonderful life now, that no matter what you do you will never affect me again,” Smart told Mitchell. “You took away nine months of my life that can never be replaced. “In this life or the next, you will be held responsible for your actions and I hope you’re ready for that when the time comes.”
Mitchell, bearded and wearing shackles over his tan prison garb, did not look at Smart as she spoke. The self-styled prophet sat between his defense attorneys, singing quietly to himself and staring straight ahead.
Smart, who came to court dressed in a gray skirt and white jacket, spoke after brief remarks from her father, who was visibly angry as he told Mitchell that his “perversion and exploitation of religion” was not a defense.
Those remarks were a reference to a contention by defense attorneys during the trial that Mitchell believed he was acting under a commandment from God when he kidnapped Smart from her Salt Lake City home, and should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Regardless of what your defense has proposed, you put Elizabeth through nine months of psychological hell,” Ed Smart said. “I hope at some time in your life you find what you have done is wrong.”
Mitchell, who prosecutors say kidnapped Smart, then 14, with the intent of forcing her to live as his young bride, was found guilty by a federal court jury on December 10 of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity.
His estranged wife, Wanda Barzee, was sentenced in May 2010 to a 15-year prison term after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping and cooperating with prosecutors in the case against him.
In dramatic testimony during the six-week trial, Smart told the court that 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.
The couple had eluded capture for nine months, despite an exhaustive search and daily coverage in the U.S. news media, by concealing Smart behind a veil and ankle-length robes.
Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Greg McCune