Brian David Mitchell's life sentence is 'beginning of a very beautiful chapter,' Elizabeth Smart says
She said, "It is a measure of justice for Elizabeth. It will certainly ensure that Brian David Mitchell never inflicts such intolerable and unspeakable cruelty on anyone else again."
Ed and Elizabeth Smart thanked all of the prosecutors, former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman, the two couples that spotted Elizabeth in Sandy in 2003 and called 911 to end her kidnapping, and John Walsh and "America's Most Wanted." The Smarts also expressed disappointment about the recent announcement that the TV show — which was crucial in first identifying Mitchell as a suspect in Elizabeth's disappearance — has been cancelled.
Prosecutors, likewise, thanked Elizabeth Smart and said the case wouldn't have been possible without her.
Assistant U.S. attorney Felice Viti said that in his years as a prosecutor, he has "never met a more poised, dignified or special person than Elizabeth Smart. ... I just thought, 'Good for her. She finally had the opportunity to talk to Brian David Mitchell in a setting that she was empowered.' "
Prosecutor Diana Hagen also praised Smart and her family for their commitment to seeing justice done. Every time the prosecution struggled with how much they should reveal in court publicly about the abuses Smart suffered and how much detail to go into, Elizabeth Smart and her family showed extreme courage to do whatever was needed for a conviction, she said.
Alica Cook is the lone prosecutor to be with both the state and federal cases since day one. She was assigned as part of a four-person prosecution team in Mitchell's state case in March of 2003.
"It's an enormous relief," she said of the federal case coming to an end. "It's one of the most difficult cases I'm sure I will ever work on."
Mitchell's state case, where he was found not competent to stand trial and not eligible for involuntary medication, is still pending. Cook said based on Wednesday's federal life sentence, the state will now evaluate its next step.
One of Mitchell's defense attorneys, Parker Douglas, said the life sentence was not unexpected. Mitchell now has 10 days to appeal his sentence. Douglas said he wasn't sure if Mitchell would appeal or not.
"We haven't spoken much about it and not in any meaningful way," he said.
Kimball's courtroom was packed with onlookers during the sentencing, many of whom had been part of his month-long trial in 2010 and some who were seeing Smart for the first time.
Eight members of the jury that convicted Mitchell were present in the courtroom for Mitchell's sentencing, even though they were not required to be there.
"I just felt like I had to be there for Elizabeth," said Beta, who was juror No. 1 during the trial but didn't want her last name used. "I just wanted to make sure Elizabeth was OK."
Members of the Smart family, including Ed, Lois, Elizabeth's sister Mary Katherine, one of her brothers, her grandmother, an uncle and a former mission companion all sat in the front row of the courtroom.
Members of Mitchell's family were also present.
"I'm happy there's closure for Elizabeth and that all this can be over with," said Mitchell's stepdaughter, Rebecca Woodridge, who visited him in jail Tuesday. She asked him if he wanted to write any statement. He told her he didn't want to. "He said, 'The world isn't ready for what I have to say.'"
She said Mitchell believes he'll never serve a life sentence because the world will either end or he'll get out of prison early. He believes "the Lord will save him and that he will be set free at the hands of the Lord," Woodridge said.
Before sentencing, attorneys argued over several sentencing enhancers. Ultimately, Kimball ruled all enhancements — obstruction of justice, preying on a vulnerable victim, that the abuse was extreme, and that Mitchell was the leader in Smart's kidnapping — all applied in this case.
"This is an unusually heinous and degrading set of facts and circumstances that lasted for nine months," Kimball said. "This is a horrible crime."
It will now be up to the Bureau of Prisons to decide which federal prison will house Mitchell.
Also Wednesday, Ed and Elizabeth Smart noted to reporters it was National Missing Children's Day and briefly brought attention to the cases of Bianca Parker, Holly Lynn Bobo and Jennifer Kesse.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Emiley Morgan
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