Former street preacher gets a life sentence in Smart case
SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly nine years after she was abducted at knifepoint from her bed, Elizabeth Smart watched yesterday without showing any emotion as a federal judge ordered a street preacher to spend the rest of his life in prison for kidnapping and raping her while holding her captive for months.
The sentencing of Brian David Mitchell closed 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.
“I know that you know what you did is wrong,’’ Smart told Mitchell, who sang quietly in the Salt Lake City courtroom. “You took away nine months of my life that can never be returned.’’
Smart, 23, took the witness stand for only about 30 seconds and confronted her abductor in court for the first time since the abduction ended.
“I have a wonderful life,’’ she said. “You will never affect me again.’’
Mitchell did not respond when US District Judge Dale Kimball handed down two life sentences.
A jury unanimously convicted Mitchell, 57, in December of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for sex.
The prosecution had sought the life sentences. The defense waived its closing remarks.
Smart was 14 when she was snatched from the bedroom of her family home in Salt Lake City. Yesterday was the first time she faced her kidnapper in court; he was removed from the trial for singing hymns when she testified.
She had 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 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.
The disappearance and a massive search riveted the nation, as did her improbable recovery while walking with her captor on a suburban Salt Lake City-area street on March 12, 2003.