Smart says her kidnapper used religion to justify actions
Rejects defense contention about mental illness
SALT LAKE CITY — Elizabeth Smart testified yesterday that the street preacher accused of kidnapping her in 2002 frequently prayed that the teenager would fulfill her marital duty of having sex — something she said was “about the farthest thing’’ from her prayers.
Smart took the stand a third day and gave a spirited rejection of Brian David Mitchell’s defense contention that he suffers from an escalating mental illness and holds extreme religious beliefs that lead him to think he is directed by God.
Mitchell was a crude, vulgar, self-serving person who used religion to justify his actions, including her kidnapping and rape over nine months, she said, calling him a hypocrite.
“He was his number one priority, followed by sex, drugs, and alcohol, but he used religion in all of those aspects to justify everything,’’ Smart said in a clear voice, confidently expressing her own religious knowledge.
“Nine months of living with him and seeing him proclaim that he was God’s servant and called to do God’s work and everything he did to me and my family is something that I know that God would not tell somebody to do,’’ she said. “God would never tell someone to kidnap her at knifepoint from their bed, from her sister’s side . . . never continue to rape her and sexually abuse her.’’
The Associated Press and The Boston Globe do not typically name victims of sexual assault, but the details of Smart’s case have become public.
Smart finished her testimony yesterday morning after about 15 minutes of cross-examination by a defense lawyer for Mitchell, who’s accused of taking her from home at knifepoint on June 5, 2002, when she was 14.
Mitchell, 57, is charged in federal court with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. If convicted, he faces a life sentence.
Now 23, Smart was found in March 2003 with Mitchell on the streets of a Salt Lake City suburb.
In previous testimony, she said during those nine months that she endured almost daily rapes and was forced to drink alcohol, use drugs, and view pornography.
On the night of her kidnapping, Smart said, Mitchell led her to a mountainside camp above Salt Lake City, where she was stripped of her red pajamas and dressed in white robes before being forced to marry him in a ceremony Mitchell performed himself. Mitchell also repeatedly threatened that Smart, her family, or anyone who tried to help her would be killed if she ever tried to escape.
Smart said she did reach out for help on one of the trips she made with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, from their campsite.
“Ms. Barzee took me into the bathroom at the Hard Rock Cafe and I tried to scratch ‘help’ into the bathroom stall,’’ Smart said.
Much of yesterday’s testimony centered on Mitchell’s use of faith and his writing, “The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah,’’ a rambling tome that outlines his own brand of religion that mixed Bible teachings with the early doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and New Age philosophers.
Smart said that she had read the book and Mitchell had spoken of it with her but that she had never heard him discuss his controversial ideas about faith — including polygamy — with anyone else.
During a short cross-examination, Smart was asked by federal public defender Robert Steele whether Mitchell’s use of prayers and blessings seemed familiar to her own practice of Mormonism.
Smart said there was some similarity, but Mitchell used spoken prayers to manipulate her and Barzee, including to have sex.
“He would say, ‘Please bless me,’ [Smart], that I would be able to cope with my wifely duties and be able to rise to the occasion and fulfill my wifely duties. That is about the farthest thing from my prayers.’’
Prosecutors also began questioning other witnesses yesterday, including the Salt Lake City homicide detective who questioned Mitchell about Smart’s identity in a downtown library.
Following up on a tip about a girl whose eyes looked like Smart’s, Detective Jon Richey said he asked Mitchell whether the veil across the girl’s face could be removed so he could verify that she was not her.
Richey pressed the issue in a conversation that lasted about 30 minutes, but Mitchell repeatedly refused, citing religious beliefs, said the retired officer, who now works for another police agency.