Describing him as a master manipulator who used religion as a front to get sex, drugs, alcohol and anything else he wanted, Elizabeth Smart delivered unflappable testimony Thursday as she took the witness stand for the first time against one of her accused kidnappers, Brian David Mitchell.
Smart's testimony was often shocking and hard to hear as she recounted how she was raped constantly by Mitchell, sometimes up to three or four times a day. But she remained amazingly collected for the entire 1 hour and 45 minutes she was on the stand, not once choking up, needing a tissue or even asking for a glass of water.
At the end of her testimony when asked to describe what kind of person Mitchell was, she simply rattled off a list of adjectives, including "evil, wicked, manipulative, sneaky, slimy, selfish, not spiritual, not religious" and "not close to God."
Smart, who was just 14 at the time of her abduction, talked in a soft but authoritative voice as she offered a nightmarish account of how Mitchell started raping her almost immediately after she was kidnapped from her bedroom June 5, 2002, taken to his campsite three miles above her house in the foothills and then "married" to Mitchell in a brief ceremony.
He made her drink alcohol, showed her pornography and used extremely crude language at different times before raping her, Smart recalled, specifically mentioning a day when he returned from going into the city and getting food and supplies.
"He would come off the mountain and say, 'I'm going to (expletive) your eyes out,' " Smart said, while adding during another part of her testimony, "There wasn't an actual 24-hour time period he wasn't able to rape me."
Smart's testimony will be considered in determining whether Mitchell is competent to stand trial on kidnapping and sex-abuse charges. Smart was allowed to testify before his full federal competency hearing, scheduled for next month, because she leaves before that to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Smart, who turns 22 next month, testified that despite Mitchell's claim of being a man of God and a self-proclaimed prophet, "he was religious, but not spiritual, not Christ-like."
"He used religion to get what he wanted. He had an excuse for everything he did with a religious side to it," she said. "Any time that I showed resistance or hesitation … he'd turn to me and say, 'The Lord has commandeth you to do this. You have to experience the lowest form of humanity to experience the highest.' "
But rather than religion, what actually drove Mitchell was sex, Smart said.
"Was there ever a time he didn't talk about sex or want sex?" U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman asked Smart during her testimony.
"No," she replied.
About the only relief Smart would get was when Mitchell went into town for food. "After that he would go on to rape me," she said.
Smart's parents, Ed and Lois, sat in the first row of the audience, Ed with his arm around Lois as they listened intently to their daughter.
"I was absolutely amazed at her strength," Ed Smart said outside the courthouse following the hearing. "I was just so proud of her. I don't know how she could have done a better job than she did."
Smart teared up while talking about how he had no idea his daughter had gone through so much, and he called Mitchell a "predator."
"It was horrible to hear how he abused her," he said.
He also re-emphasized to the media that it was the constant threat of being killed or having her family killed that held his daughter captive for nine months.
Tolman called Elizabeth Smart "graceful, remarkable and strong." He said, "In very few circumstances have I seen a witness do a better job."
Elizabeth Smart did not face Mitchell as he was removed from the courtroom before she entered. But she wanted to.
"She actually wanted to face him," Ed Smart said. "She asked (before the hearing) if he could be muzzled and sit and watch."
Mitchell, wearing a yellow jumpsuit from the Salt Lake County Jail, was led into the courtroom Thursday with his eyes closed, and he began singing a hymn, as he has done in many previous hearings. His singing was softer, however, than in past appearances. And when he was being led out of the courtroom, he stopped singing two feet before he got to the door, something he has not done before.
Ed Smart, sitting in the audience, did not look at Mitchell as he sang.
Mitchell was taken to a holding cell equipped with audio and video so he could follow the proceedings. Tolman said Elizabeth Smart was pleased to know that Mitchell would be able to hear her testify.
Tolman launched into his questioning by having Smart recount what happened the night of June 5, 2002. She talked about how Mitchell, dressed in sweatpants, a sweatshirt, stocking cap and tennis shoes, entered her bedroom, put his hand on her chest and a knife to her throat and told her to get up and get her shoes.
"He told me to get up quietly, and if I didn't he'd kill me and my family," Smart testified.
During her testimony, the prosecution tried to portray Mitchell as a person who, despite his religious idiosyncrasies, was fully aware of what was happening around him, was very intelligent and, above all, was not mentally incompetent.
Smart said Mitchell would often brag about being smarter than others and "had to be the authority" on all topics.
"He would be laughing. He'd say, 'They think they're so smart. I know I could dance circles around them. They don't know who they're dealing with,' " she said.
Smart admitted that Mitchell was, in fact, a "very capable human being" but also added that for him, "lying was easy." He could get what he wanted by deceiving others, whether it was through the guise of religion or using several aliases and disguising Smart with veils and wigs and instructing her on how to make up stories to strangers.
Several times during her testimony, Smart talked about how Mitchell would go to great measures to avoid being caught and how he had a strong knowledge of many topics, including the law. She said he knew what he was doing was illegal and that he could go to prison for it.
At times, co-defendant Wanda Barzee would become angry at Mitchell for the attention he gave Smart, she testified.
"There was a period of time she said, 'All you do is lust after her,' " Smart said.
But again, Mitchell used religion to get what he wanted, giving Barzee a blessing, telling her she was the mother of Zion, and then went back to raping Smart, she said. Smart herself received blessings on occasion from Mitchell.
Mitchell often prayed and sang hymns, but he was able to turn his singing on and off as he wanted, she testified.
In illustrating how little Mitchell thought of others and how his only concern was for himself, Smart recounted how she was given too much alcohol one night and ended up vomiting all over herself. She was left lying "face down in my vomit the entire night until I woke up the next day."
Despite constantly being threatened, Smart said she was able to keep some of her independence and tell Mitchell "no" on occasion, though he often didn't listen. She was also the one who persuaded Mitchell to hitchhike from California back to Salt Lake City.
"Even if it took 20 years to find me, I just felt the chances would be better in Salt Lake," she said. "I decided to try and use his tactic (of using religion to manipulate). I said (to Mitchell) I had a very strong feeling to go back to Salt Lake. … I said I had to sink below all things to rise above all things, shouldn't I have to experience (hitchhiking), too?"
Despite the number of details she did remember, Smart paused at times during her testimony and said there were specific details of her abduction that she could not remember. "It's been a long time. I don't sit and think about it every day," she said.
Defense attorney Bob Steele contends his client is delusional. During cross-examination, Steele had Smart talk about some of Mitchell's more bizarre religious behavior.
"He said he was God's voice on the earth. … He would reign over the children of God till Christ came," Smart said. "He said he would one day fight the anti-Christ."
Mitchell told Smart he would be stoned to death and rise again three days later to defeat and kill the Antichrist, Smart testified. When asked who the Antichrist was, Smart said Mitchell never mentioned a name but did at one point mention late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley as being an anti-Christ.
Outside the courtroom, Steele told reporters that despite the prosecution's claim that Mitchell's seemingly cunning mind proves he's not mentally incompetent, it is possible to be manipulative and have a mental illness at the same time.
"These things can exist side by side," he said.
Steele does not believe Mitchell can reasonably assist in his defense, one of the criteria for finding a person mentally incompetent.
Tolman said despite Smart's incredible testimony, "The battle is not over. It is just the beginning."
The government plans on calling dozens more lay and expert witnesses when Mitchell's competency hearing resumes in earnest in November.
Elizabeth Smart was quickly ushered away by her mother after the hearing and did not make herself available to the media. Ed Smart said his daughter simply let out a big sigh of relief in the hallway after it was over and was congratulated by her family, many of whom attended the hearing, including her brothers, uncles and grandmother.236 comments on this story
Mitchell and his estranged wife and co-defendant, Wanda Barzee, were arrested in 2003 for allegedly kidnapping Smart and taking her to California before returning to Utah, where they were caught nine months later. Barzee was ruled to be incompetent to stand trial in state court and ordered to undergo involuntary medication. She is scheduled to have her first review hearing since being forcibly medicated later this month.
Mitchell, who was ruled not eligible for involuntary medication in state court, was indicted in federal court with interstate kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of having sex.