Elizabeth Smart kidnapper set for sentencing

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Nearly nine years after she was taken at knifepoint, raped and held captive, Elizabeth Smart is set to publicly confront her kidnapper for the first time Wednesday when he is sentenced. The sentencing of Brian David Mitchell will close 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. Smart was expected to speak at the hearing in U.S. District Court. A federal jury convicted Mitchell, 57, a former street preacher, in December of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of having illegal sex. He faces a possible life sentence for each charge. Smart testified at Mitchell’s trial, but never addressed him directly because he was routinely removed for disrupting the proceedings by singing. Smart was 14 when she was snatched from the bedroom of her family home in Salt Lake City. 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 Smart 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. Smart was a steady, clear-voiced 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. “For nine months, Ms. Smart, a young teenager, was subjected to unusually heinous, cruel, brutal, and degrading treatment at the hands of the defendant, which caused great emotional, physical and psychological pain and humiliation,” a federal prosecutor argued in court papers filed in support of a life sentence. “Those nine months can never be recovered,” the document states. Smart recently returned from a Mormon church mission to France. In interviews with Utah media last week, she said she did not yet know what she would say at the sentencing. Her father, Ed Smart, is also expected to address Mitchell, said Chris Thomas, a spokesman for the family. 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. Defense attorneys maintain Mitchell needs psychiatric attention and have asked the judge to recommend incarceration in a federal prison hospital rather than a standard prison. 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.

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