SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The homeless street preacher on trial for the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart collapsed in court on Tuesday, and was taken to a hospital after suffering what his attorney said was a seizure.
Brian David Mitchell, who has been repeatedly ejected from court by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball for disrupting the proceedings with singing and other odd behavior, was seated at the defense table in shackles when he suddenly yelled and crumpled to the floor.
Paramedics carried him out of the courtroom on a stretcher and an ambulance took him to the hospital. The court session had just begun when Mitchell collapsed, and Kimball called a recess until more was known about his condition.
It was not immediately clear what caused Mitchell, who had been singing in court earlier, to fall to the floor. His collapse happened as the jury was filing in.
Asked by reporters if Mitchell, 57, could have staged the incident, his lead attorney insisted it was a legitimate medical issue.
“There was a medical physician in the room that immediately went to him. I don’t think anyone suspects that what we observed was not a seizure. I think everyone sees that,” Bob Steele, an attorney for Mitchell, said outside the courthouse.
Earlier in the trial, Smart testified that in 2002 when she was 14, Mitchell kidnapped her at knifepoint from the bed she shared with her younger sister, marched her several miles into the foothills above Salt Lake City and raped her.
She has described her time as Mitchell’s captive as “nine months of hell.”
Smart was rescued in 2003 after she was spotted by passersby walking with Mitchell and his wife on a street in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy.
Reporting by James Nelson; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jerry Norton