Published May 25, 2011
A poised Elizabeth Smart stared at her kidnapper Wednesday, nine years after her abduction, and told him and the rest of those gathered in the federal courtroom in Salt Lake City that she will have a good life despite the months of rape.
That chapter of Smart's life finally came to a close when Brian David Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison for what he did to her when she was 14. And he knew what he was doing was wrong, Smart said her her brief statement before the sentencing.
"I don't have very much to say to you," Smart, now 23, said. "I know that you know what you did was wrong. You did it with full knowledge. But I want you to know that I have a wonderful life."
Mitchell did not look at Smart. Instead, he sat in court gently singing with his eyes trained downward.
Smart told Mitchell he took nine months of her life but "in this life or the next, you will have to be held responsible for those actions. I hope you are ready when that time comes."
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball handed down two life sentences for Mitchell despite efforts from his attorneys to lighten the punishment. Kimball asked Mitchell if he’d like to address the court, but he continued singing.
Kimball called this case an "unusually heinous and degrading set of circumstances that lasted for nine months," Fox13Now.com reported.
Mitchell was found guilty in December of kidnapping Smart, who was 14 at the time, from her Salt Lake City bedroom in 2002. The kidnapping led to nine months of assaults; Mitchell would rape the girl numerous times during any given day.
Within hours of the kidnapping she was stripped of her favorite red pajamas, draped in white, religious robes and forced into a polygamous marriage with Mitchell, she previously said. 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.
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.
Earlier this month, Robert Steele, Mitchell's attorney, appealed to the court to lighten Mitchell’s sentencing because despite the actions of his client, “in a legal sense, the story is not the extreme psychological injury. The story is her overcoming the extreme conduct of my client.”
Mitchell’s attorney had hoped his client would be detained in a federal mental facility instead of a prison.
It has been nine years since Smart’s kidnapping because the case hit a few legal hurdles after he was declared mentally ill and unfit in to stand trial in state court.
However, when the case was brought to federal jury, a guilty verdict was achieved.
Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, also addressed the former street preacher before the sentencing and said "exploitation of religion is not a defense. It is disgusting and it is an abuse that anyone should despise."
Outside the courthouse, a beaming Smart, now a Brigham Young University music student, told reporters that the sentencing "is the ending of a very long chapter and the beginning of a very beautiful chapter for me." She said she wants to work with other crime victims and lend her support to the cause of missing children.
The defense waived its closing remarks before sentencing. Parker Douglas, a member of Mitchell's defense team, said outside the courthouse that the sentence was not unexpected.
"I wish Elizabeth Smart and her family the best. I hope they get to move on," Douglas said. He added that the decision about whether to appeal depends largely on what Mitchell wants.
Wanda Barzee, his estranged wife and 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.