SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly nine years after she was abducted at knifepoint from her bed, Elizabeth Smart watched Wednesday without showing any emotion as a federal judge ordered a street preacher to spend the rest of his life in prison for kidnapping and raping her while holding her captive for months.
The sentencing of Brian David Mitchell closed a major legal chapter in the heartbreaking ordeal that stalled for years after Mitchell was declared mentally ill and unfit to stand trial in state court.
"I know that you know what you did is wrong," Smart told Mitchell as he sang quietly in the courtroom. "You took away nine months of my life that can never be returned."
Dressed in a hounds-tooth checked skirt, ivory jacket and pearls, Smart took the witness stand for only about 30 seconds and confronted Mitchell in court for the first time.
She appeared poised and composed, speaking in even tones.
"I have a wonderful life," she said. "You will never affect me again."
After the hearing Smart smiled and hugged family members and her lawyers. She later said she was thrilled with the sentence.
Mitchell did not respond when U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball handed down two life sentences at the hearing in Salt Lake City. Federal sentencing rules do not allow parole.
A jury unanimously convicted the 57-year-old Mitchell in December of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for sex.
With long hair and beard, he looked frail and thin in court. He sang throughout the proceedings, even when the judge asked if he wanted to speak.
In pronouncing the sentence, Kimball said the case featured a "degrading set of facts and circumstances."
"This is a horrible crime and a life sentence does reflect the seriousness," he said.
The prosecution had sought the life sentences.
Carlie Christensen, U.S. attorney for Utah, said the resolution was long overdue for Smart and her family.
"It is a measure of justice for Elizabeth and it will certainly ensure Brian David Mitchell will never inflict such intolerable and unspeakable cruelty on anyone else again," Christensen said.
The defense waived its closing remarks before sentencing.
Outside court, Mitchell's former stepdaughter, Rebecca Woodridge, said she was grateful that Smart was so strong and hopeful the family can have closure.
She said she talked to Mitchell Tuesday and asked if he had anything to say to the public. He said he doesn't think the world is ready to hear what he has to say.
Smart was 14 when she was snatched from the bedroom of her family home in Salt Lake City. Wednesday was the first time she faced her kidnapper in court; he was removed from the trial for singing hymns when she testified.
Now 23, she testified in excruciating detail about waking up in the early hours of June 5, 2002, to the feel of a cold, jagged knife at her throat and being whisked away by Mitchell to his camp in the foothills near the family home.
Within hours of the kidnapping, she testified, she was stripped of her favorite red pajamas, draped in white, religious robes and forced into a polygamous marriage with Mitchell. She was tethered to a metal cable strung between two trees and subjected to near-daily rapes while being forced to use alcohol and drugs.
The disappearance and a massive search to find the blond-haired, blue-eyed girl riveted the nation, as did her improbable recovery while walking with her captor on a suburban Salt Lake City-area street on March 12, 2003.
Smart was a steady, clear-voiced trial witness who never wavered with emotion, even as she described the horrific events of what she called her "nine months of hell."
She recalled being forced to live homeless, dress in disguises and stay quiet or lie about her identity if ever approached by strangers or police. Daily, her life and those of her family members were threatened by Mitchell, she has said.
On Wednesday, her father spoke to the man who kidnapped his daughter
"Exploitation of religion is not a defense," Ed Smart said. "You put Elizabeth through nine months of psychological hell."
Smart said outside court that the sentencing, which came on National Missing Children's Day, "is the end of a long chapter and the start of a beautiful chapter for me."
She says she wants to work to help bring other missing children get back to their families and see the abductors brought to justice. She also urged parents with missing children to not give up hope they will come home.
The facts of the case have never been in dispute, but defense attorneys have said Mitchell's actions were tainted by mental illness and long-held delusional beliefs that he had been commanded by God to fulfill important prophecies.
Smart, who described her captor as vulgar and self-serving, testified that she believed Mitchell was driven by his desire for sex, drugs and alcohol, not by any sincere religious beliefs.
Much of the case has turned on questions over Mitchell's mental health. In federal court he was deemed competent for trial, but a parallel state case — where he remains charged with six felonies — stalled after a judge twice determined he was unfit and rejected a petition for forced treatment.
Mitchell finally stood trial after a key witness for federal prosecutors, New York forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, concluded Mitchell was "malingering" or faking a mental disorder to avoid prosecution.
Defense attorneys maintain Mitchell needs psychiatric attention and asked the judge to recommend incarceration in a federal prison hospital rather than a standard prison.
"The sentence was not unexpected. I wish Elizabeth Smart and her family the best. I hope they get to move on," Parker Douglas, a member of Mitchell's defense team, said outside the courthouse.Comment on this story
Douglas said defense attorneys said the decision about whether to appeal depends largely on what Mitchell wants.
Wanda Barzee, Mitchell's estranged wife and a co-defendant in the case, is already serving a 15-year sentence in a federal prison hospital in Texas for her role in the kidnapping.
Barzee, 65, pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping and unlawful transportation charges in November 2009. Upon her release, Barzee is expected to be transferred to the Utah State Prison to serve a sentence on a conviction in a companion case involving the attempted abduction in 2002 of Smart's cousin.
Associated Press Writer Chi-Chi Zhang contributed to this report.