Mitchell sentencing today for kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper and rapist, Brian David Mitchell, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Wednesday afternoon before U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball in downtown Salt Lake City.
Court proceedings are scheduled to get underway at 2:30 p.m., bringing to a finale an eight-year legal drama that has captivated Utah and the nation.
The Salt Lake Tribune will be providing live coverage of the sentencing hearing on http://www.sltrib.com, including transcripts and streaming video from the courthouse steps.
There is no parole in the federal system, but if Mitchell receives a sentence of less than life, he could earn up to 54 days off a year for good behavior.
Mitchell, 57, will be incarcerated out of state since Utah has no federal prison.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons will decide where Mitchell will serve his time, taking into account factors including Mitchell's security requirements, staff supervision and medical care if Kimball orders him to undergo substance-abuse or mental-health treatment.
Kimball will rely in part on a presentence report available only to judges and attorneys that includes sentencing guidelines, but Kimball is not obligated to follow them.
Presentence reports typically contain details about the crime and its impact on the victim; the defendant's criminal and family history; his physical, mental and emotional health; his history of substance abuse; his education and work history; and his ability to pay any potential fines and restitution.
The judge will also review recommendations by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Smart is expected to give a victim impact statement before Kimball imposes Mitchell's sentence, and is also expected to speak with reporters following the hearing outside the courthouse.
Her comments at sentencing will come in addition to the testimony she gave at Mitchell's five-week trial. Jurors said that Smart's composed testimony played a key role in their decision to convict Mitchell of taking a then 14-year-old Smart from her bedroom in June 2002 to make her a plural wife.
Smart, now 23, told jurors in detail about her nine months held in captivity by Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, during the course of a trial that concluded in December.
Smart recounted how Mitchell marched her at knifepoint to a mountain campsite above her Salt Lake City home, where he raped her almost daily. Smart, who was for a time tethered to the site by a steel cable, testified she had little opportunity for 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 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 would not be found. Smart said she suggested a return to Utah, where Mitchell could find another teenaged girl to be a wife. She was rescued in March 2003 when the trio was spotted on a Sandy street.
While Smart's testimony was the most dramatic, much of the trial focused on dueling mental health experts.
Mitchell's attorneys argued he was severely mentally ill and acting under the delusional belief that God had ordered him to abduct Smart to make her a plural wife. Mitchell, who disrupted the court by singing hymns each morning, was routinely removed to a room where he could watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit TV.
Barzee testified Mitchell had revelations that he would take at least seven wives and battle the anti-Christ to restore the Mormon church to its true polygamous beginnings. Prior to abducting Smart, Barzee said Mitchell had a revelation telling him to acquire wives by taking young girls by force.
A defense expert testified Mitchell suffers from a disorder in which his delusions are encapsulated and triggered only by religious ideas. Another defense expert claimed Mitchell suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
But prosecution experts told jurors Mitchell did not suffer from any severe mental illness. Rather, they said, he is a pedophile and a psychopath, who also has anti-social and personality disorders.
A 12-member jury deliberated five hours and convicted Mitchell of felony kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have filed a series of memos this month in federal court, arguing how much prison time Mitchell should serve.
Attorneys for Mitchell have argued that Mitchell shouldn't receive a sentence longer than suggested guidelines, which call for a 30-year minimum. They assert Mitchell shared equal culpability with the 65-year-old Barzee, who is serving a maximum of 15 years behind bars for her role in the crime. They've also disputed an argument from prosecutors that Mitchell obstructed justice by feigning mental illness through singing in court.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, contend that Mitchell conceived of everything to do with the kidnapping scheme, from deciding to target young girls to sexually abuse them, to constructing a system to tether captives at his mountain camp, to instructing Barzee and Smart on how to behave in public and fabricating cover stories to use when confronted by police in Utah and California.
Mitchell also "exercised dominance or power" over Barzee by having purported "revelations" from God and threatening her with "eternal consequences" if she did not participate in the crimes, according to prosecutors, who cited testimony from Mitchell's trial and competency hearing.
Mitchell told Barzee he had a revelation that they were to "plunder" young wives between the ages of 10 and 14 because they were more "malleable," prosecutors wrote. And when Barzee became uncooperative, Mitchell employed "priesthood blessings," purporting to give her instructions from God to ensure her submission, prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors believe Mitchell should never get out of prison.
"A life sentence is necessary to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant," prosecutors wrote. " ... the defendant is a pedophile who has victimized not only Ms. Smart, but other children as well.
"Not only is the defendant a recidivist, but his refusal to acknowledge the wrongfulness of his conduct poses an even greater risk of future crimes against children. This defendant cannot be released back into society."
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