Elizabeth Smart Describes Ordeal Of Rape, Abuse

Elizabeth Smart leaves the courthouse with her mother.

hide captionElizabeth Smart (right) walks out of the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City with her mother, Lois Smart, after testifying Thursday at a competency hearing for her alleged kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell.

Timeline: Elizabeth Smart's Abduction And Its Aftermath
Colin Braley/AP

Elizabeth Smart, the Utah girl who was kidnapped and held captive seven years ago, told a federal court Thursday that she was raped repeatedly on a daily basis by her alleged abductor. It was the first time she has spoken publicly about her ordeal.

Over an hour and 40 minutes of testimony in a Salt Lake City courtroom, Smart described her nine months in captivity in painful detail. The testimony is part of an ongoing competency hearing for Brian David Mitchell, the man accused of abducting Smart and holding her as a polygamous wife.

A 'Wicked, Manipulative' Abductor

In the courtroom, Smart stepped up to the witness stand. She was smiling, smartly dressed and composed. It was precisely 2,659 days and seven hours after the man she identified as Brian David Mitchell took her at knife point from her Salt Lake City bedroom.

Elizabeth was 14 at the time; she is 21 now. She had told the complete story of her captivity to lawyers and therapists in private, but not in a courtroom, not publicly and not even to her own family.

Her father, mother, grandmother, siblings, uncles and other relatives watched from the first row of seats. Mitchell had been kicked out of the courtroom before Smart arrived because he wouldn't stop his incessant singing of hymns. He watched and listened from a holding cell as Smart described him as evil, wicked, manipulative, stinky, slimy, selfish, not spiritual, not religious and not close to God.

Prosecutors used Smart's testimony to underscore their central point: Mitchell, they insist, is faking mental illness so he won't have to go trial. For 100 minutes, Smart described Mitchell as a sex-crazed hypocrite who used religion to get sex, food, drugs and alcohol. She maintained her composure when describing her first rape shortly after her abduction. She said Mitchell raped her three to four times a day during her nine months as his captive.

'The Lord Wants You To Experience This'

Smart said Mitchell's manner was extremely crude. She quoted him telling her he was going to "F- - - her eyes out."

If she showed resistance or hesitation, she said, he told her, 'The Lord wants you to experience this.' He said the same thing to his wife, Wanda Barzee, who was angered by all the sex with Smart. Barzee has also been charged.

Mitchell bragged about manipulating people, Smart testified. " 'They think they're so smart,' " she quoted him as saying. " 'They don't know who they're dealing with.' " Smart said she was told she'd be killed if she tried to escape or yell out or not do what Mitchell wanted.

Federal defender Bob Steele tried to elicit testimony showing that Mitchell is too unstable to assist in his own defense. In response to Steele's questions, Smart said Mitchell claimed to be a prophet and God's voice on Earth. She said he also said he would reign over the children of God until Christ's return and then become Christ's mouthpiece.

When the lawyers were finished, Smart left the courtroom arm in arm with her mother and did not speak to reporters outside.

Smart's uncle, Tom Smart, praised her. "Elizabeth's been ready to move on for a long time," he says. "We're just very, very proud of her. She did a great job."

Competency Complications

U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman says Smart's testimony was "graceful and remarkable, strong."

"We said all along that one of the most important things in this case would be those that spent time with the defendant, as the psychologists have not been able to conduct psychological testing, standard psychological testing," he says. "Those witnesses that have spent time with him and have observed him are the most important. And none are more important than Elizabeth."

Mitchell was ruled incompetent twice before in state courts, which stalled his state prosecution. Smart was not called to testify in any of those proceedings. A federal indictment followed, and now federal prosecutors are going through the mental competency process.

Defense lawyer Steele says he has tried to engage Mitchell in his own defense. "I don't believe he can rationally assist me in presenting his case," he says. Steele also says he doesn't believe evidence of manipulation disproves mental illness.

"Do we imagine that the mentally ill aren't manipulative, that they only have nice traits?" He says. "Those things can exist side by side — manipulativeness and mental illness."

Smart's testimony was the first in what is expected to be a 10-day competency hearing that resumes Nov. 30. Thursday's appearance was scheduled so that Smart can leave soon for a Mormon mission. If Mitchell is ruled competent and if his case goes to trial, Smart will very likely testify again.

Correction Nov. 1, 2009

In the audio version of this story, Howard Berkes said that Elizabeth Smart gave her testimony 6,659 days after she had been abducted. He actually had calculated the correct number as 2,659 days but misspoke when he recorded the radio story.

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