Brian David Mitchell's life sentence is 'beginning of a very beautiful chapter,' Elizabeth Smart says

Published: Wednesday, May 25 2011 7:00 p.m. MDT

Elizabeth Smart speaks at the federal courthouse after the sentencing of Brian David Mitchell in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

Laura Seitz, Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — "Today is the ending of a very long chapter and the beginning of a very beautiful chapter for me," proclaimed a smiling Elizabeth Smart outside the Frank E. Moss federal courthouse Wednesday.

Brian David Mitchell, the man convicted of kidnapping Smart at knifepoint from her bedroom nearly nine years ago, holding her hostage for nine months and subjecting her to horrific abuse, was sentenced to life in federal prison. Under the federal system, there is no parole.

"I am so thrilled with the results that came out today, the life sentence. I couldn't be happier," Smart said.

Mitchell, as he has at every court hearing for the past several years, showed no emotion as the sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball. Instead, he sat next to his attorneys, with his eyes closed, his shackled hands in a prayer formation, and sang hymns.

Before the sentence was handed down, both Smart and her father took turns standing in the center of the courtroom with a microphone, looked at Mitchell and directly addressed him.

"I don't have very much say to you. I know exactly what you did, and I know that you know what you did was wrong and you did it with a full knowledge of that," Elizabeth Smart told her kidnapper in a calm, collected, confident and emphatic voice.

"I want you to know that I have a wonderful life now. No matter what you do, you will never affect me again. You took away nine months of my life that can never be returned. But I know that in this life or the next, you will be held responsible for what you have done and I hope you're ready for that when it comes."

Mitchell kept his eyes closed and continued to sing the entire time Smart spoke. But his volume was not as loud as it had been in past court appearances and Smart's words could easily be heard with the microphone she was given.

Before Mitchell was brought into the courtroom, Smart took a deep breath and her mother, Lois Smart, who was sitting next to her, put her hand on her knee and appeared to ask her if she was OK, to which Smart nodded her head as if to say "yes."

But rather than being nervous, Elizabeth Smart said after the hearing that she was actually "excited to have this day finally here," both because of the sentencing and because it was National Missing Children's Day and her case could be used to raise awareness for others.

"There wasn't a feeling of nervousness or fear that could have prevented me from saying what I needed to say," she said.

Mitchell entered the courtroom singing "O Come O Come Emanuel," the first song he sang during his state court proceedings six years ago, marking the beginning of his long trend of singing and being removed from court.

As Mitchell was led out of the courtroom for the final time, Elizabeth Smart said she didn't even remember watching him leave. All she could think was, "Well, Hallelujah. That's one less threat off the streets."

Mitchell had the option of also speaking in his defense, but as he continued to sing, attorney Robert Steele said his client did not intend to address the court.

"I think I can firmly say I heard enough from him during those nine months and I never have to hear anything else from him again," Smart said outside the courtroom when asked about Mitchell's refusal to talk.

Her father, Ed Smart, also addressed Mitchell before sentencing with a similar short, but direct statement.

"Your perversion and exploitation of religion is not a defense. It is disgusting and it is an abuse that anyone should despise," he said while looking directly at Mitchell. "You put Elizabeth through nine months of psychological hell."

Prosecutors were pleased with the sentence. U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen called it, "appropriate, just and long overdue for our community, for the Smart family, and of course for Elizabeth."

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