Smart abductor used religion to justify crude actions

The man accused of abducting Elizabeth Smart was a crude, vulgar, self-serving person who used religion to justify his actions, including her kidnapping and rape, she told jurors on her third and final day of testimony.

SALT LAKE CITY — The man accused of abducting Elizabeth Smart was a crude, vulgar, self-serving person who used religion to justify his actions, including her kidnapping and rape, she told jurors on her third and final day of testimony.

“He was his No. 1 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.

She finished her testimony Wednesday morning after just 15 minutes of cross-examination by a defence lawyer for Brian David Mitchell, an itinerant street preacher accused of taking her from home 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.

Mitchell was not in the courtroom to hear to hear Smart testify. As on each previous day of the trial, he was removed for disrupting the proceedings by singing hymns. He watches the trial on closed-circuit television from a holding cell.

Mitchell’s defence attorneys contend he suffers from an escalating mental illness and holds extreme religious beliefs that lead him to think he is directed by God.

Smart gave a spirited rejection of that contention on the stand Wednesday, calling Mitchell a hypocrite.

“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 . . . 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.”

Now 23, Smart was found in March 2003 with Mitchell.

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 pyjamas and dressed in white robes before being forced to marry him in a quickie 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 wife at the time, 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 Wednesday’s testimony centred on Mitchell’s use of faith and his writing, “The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah,” a rambling tome that outlines his own brand of religions that mixed Bible teachings with the early doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and New Age philosophers.

Smart said she had read the book and Mitchell had spoken of it with her but had never discussed 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 verbal prayers to manipulate her and Barzee, including to have sex.

“The things that he would say in his prayers were things that I would never have said,” she replied.

“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 fulfil my wifely duties. That is about the farthest thing from my prayers.”

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