Elizabeth Smart gazed unflinchingly at the man who held her captive and raped her daily for nine months in 2002. As he’d done in court many times before, Brian David Mitchell quietly sang church hymns Wednesday, with his cuffed hands clasped together and his eyes closed. But the sentencing — for one of the most notable crimes in Utah history — proceeded despite Mitchell’s bizarre behavior. And at the finale of Mitchell’s eight-year legal saga, the former homeless street preacher’s antics in federal court were overshadowed by an assertive Smart, who evenly delivered a message to the man who took so much from her when she was just 14. Smart, now 23, drew a deep breath after walking to the center of U.S District Court Judge Dale Kimball’s courtroom, then turned to face Mitchell, 57.
“I don’t have very much to say to you,” she told the unresponsive defendant. “I know exactly what you did,” she said. “I know that you know what you did was wrong. You did it with a full knowledge. I also want you to know that I have a wonderful life now, that no matter what you do, it will not affect me again. “You took away nine months of my life that can never be returned. But in this life or next, you will have to be held responsible for those actions, and I hope you are ready for when that time comes.” Smart’s powerful statement came minutes before Kimball ordered Mitchell to spend life behind bars for kidnapping Smart from her Salt Lake City bedroom in order to make her a plural wife. Kimball called the circumstances of Mitchell’s crimes against Smart “unusually heinous and degrading. “A life sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime,” the judge said. Smart’s father, Ed, also spoke to Mitchell, saying: “Your perversion and exploitation of religion is not a defense. It is disgusting and it is an abuse that anyone should despise. You put Elizabeth through nine months of psychological hell.” Mitchell never spoke in court, except to sing a string of hymns, beginning with “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” After the sentencing, a jubilant Smart addressed reporters outside the courthouse, saying she didn’t care that Mitchell didn’t have the courage to look her in the eye. She said she doesn’t need an apology from him to move forward. “Well, hallelujah,” Smart said, summing up her feelings about never having to see or hear Mitchell again. “I heard enough during those nine months, and I never have to hear anything again.” Prosecutors praised Smart for her poise and courage in sharing horrific details about the degradation she was subjected to by Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Hagen said Smart never balked at testifying about the graphic nature of Mitchell’s crimes. “She has inspired other victims not to give up hope,” Hagen said. “She has inspired crime victims that you can come forward and talk about what has happened to you without any shame, and that the only person to blame is the perpetrator.” During sentencing, Prosecutor Felice Viti invoked the emotional nature of the case, describing Smart’s psychological trauma from being abducted from the bedroom she shared with her sister, Mary Katherine. “Ms. Smart’s world changed — changed suddenly, violently and without warning,” Viti said. “For Ms. Smart, the bogeyman under the bed and the monster in the closet became real. ... Mary Katherine uttered words no parent should ever have to hear: He had taken their daughter.” Mitchell, who must give a DNA sample and will be a registered sex offender, has 10 days to appeal his sentence. Defense attorney Parker Douglas said the defense team is still debating that possibility. He said he hasn’t heard much from Mitchell either way on the subject. Mitchell’s former stepdaughter, Rebecca Woodridge, said she spoke to him Tuesday about his case and potential appeals. She said Mitchell hasn’t mentioned trying to continue his legal battle, and instead tells her he is focused on finishing “the Lord’s work” in prison. “I think he is ready for it to be over,” Woodridge added. There is no parole in the federal system, meaning Mitchell will die in prison. He will be incarcerated out of state since Utah has no federal facility. It will be about a month before the Federal Bureau of Prisons decides where he will serve his time. The sentence concludes what turned into a lengthy legal process for Mitchell, who spent years at Utah State Hospital after being found incompetent to stand trial by a state court judge. Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Alicia Cook, who prosecuted Mitchell in both state and federal court, said Wednesday reminded her of one of Mitchell’s early court appearances in 2004. The first time Mitchell sang in court, she said, he also chose the hymn,“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Mitchell’s courtroom singing increased in frequency when a plea bargain offered by prosecutors fell apart, she noted. Cook said state prosecutors haven’t yet decided whether they will continue pursuing a state court case against Mitchell now that he will be serving life in a federal prison. The federal court trial concluded in December, when jurors convicted Mitchell of kidnapping Smart and later taking her across state lines for sexual purposes. On March 12, 2003, after nine months of captivity, Smart was rescued after being spotted in Sandy with Mitchell and his wife, Barzee. Mitchell’s sentence follows prison time ordered for Barzee last year. Barzee, 65, was sentenced last May after pleading guilty in federal court to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. She received 15 years, but as part of a plea bargain, she was credited for the seven years she had already spent, either at Utah State Hospital or the Salt Lake County jail. In state court, Barzee was sentenced to a concurrent term of one to 15 years. She had pleaded guilty and mentally ill to a second-degree felony charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping in connection with the attempted abduction of Smart’s teenage cousin. As part of her plea deals, Barzee testified against her husband. At trial, Barzee called Mitchell “a great deceiver,” who used religious blessings and revelations to gain her cooperation in the kidnapping and rape of a teenage Smart. Barzee testified that Mitchell told her God wanted them to kidnap seven young girls to become plural wives as a way of restoring the true church to Earth during an end-of-times battle with the Antichrist. Jurors have said that Smart’s composed and detailed testimony played a key role in their decision to convict Mitchell. She recounted how Mitchell marched her at knifepoint to his campsite in the foothills above her Salt Lake City home, where, for a time, she was tethered by a steel cable. She testified she had little opportunity to escape and that Mitchell threatened her family’s lives if she tried. She said she was forced to watch Mitchell and Barzee engage in sexual activity and to smoke marijuana and cigarettes and drink alcohol. “I felt like, because [of] what he had done to me, that I was marked, that I wasn’t clean, wasn’t pure, wasn’t worth the same,” she testified. “I felt like another person would never love me. Yeah, I felt like I could take the risk of being killed and try to escape.” But Smart told jurors she then realized her family would love her no matter what, and she gave up thoughts of escape as a survival strategy. “I would survive and do everything he told me to do to keep my life and my family’s life intact,” she testified. Later, the trio traveled to California, where Smart testified she feared she wouldn’t be found. Smart engineered her own rescue by suggesting a return to Utah, telling Mitchell it would be easier to find another teenage girl for a wife there. While Smart’s testimony was the most dramatic, much of the trial focused on dueling mental-health experts. A defense expert testified that Mitchell suffers from a disorder in which his delusions are encapsulated and triggered only by religious ideas. Another defense expert said Mitchell suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. But prosecution experts told jurors Mitchell didn’t suffer from severe mental illness. Rather, they said, he is a pedophile and a psychopath who also has antisocial and personality disorders. In the end, the 12-member jury said they believed Mitchell didn’t suffer from serious mental illness and that he knew right from wrong. They deliberated five hours before convicting Mitchell of felony kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. Several jurors attended Wednesday’s hearing, even though they weren’t required to do so. One woman, identifying herself as “Juror 1,” said she wanted to see the case through to the end. “I just felt like I had to be there for Elizabeth,” the juror said. “I wanted to make sure she was OK, even though I knew she would be.”