Former street preacher gets life in Smart case

By Jennifer Dobner

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 25 2011 6:01 p.m. MDT

Members of the media wait for Elizabeth Smart to exit the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse, Wednesday, May 25, 2011, in Salt Lake City. Smart's kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, was sentenced to life in prison.

Jim Urquhart, Associated Press

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.

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