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Elizabeth Smart Testified She Was Raped Daily


Six years after her rescue, Elizabeth Smart has finally revealed details of the kidnapping and captivity she endured when she was 14 years old. Smart testified in a federal competency hearing in Utah yesterday. The man she identified as her abductor is considered mentally incompetent by state courts. Now, federal prosecutors are trying to put him on trial.

From Salt Lake City, NPR's Howard Berkes is reporting today. And we should warn listeners that this report lasts about three minutes, and you may find some details disturbing.

HOWARD BERKES: Elizabeth Smart had not told this story in public or in court before, and she wanted Brian David Mitchell to hear it. Mitchell is the self-proclaimed prophet accused of forcing Smart from her bedroom in 2002, and then forcing her to act as his polygamist wife.

But Mitchell entered the courtroom before Smart was in it, shackled at the wrist and ankles and singing hymns incessantly. That prompted Judge Dale Kimball to send Mitchell to a holding cell.

Here's Elizabeth's father, Ed, and U.S. attorney Brett Tolman.

Mr. ED SMART: She actually wanted to face him and, in fact, I think she asked Brett if he could be muzzled and have to sit there and watch it.

Mr. BRETT TOLMAN (U.S. Attorney, District of Utah): And she did ask me whether or not he got to see that testimony and hear that testimony. I indicated to her, to her relief, that he was there in a room with the audio and video, and had nothing else to do but to listen to that.

BERKES: Mitchell heard Smart testify, confident and composed, for an hour and 40 minutes. He used religion to get what he wanted, Smart said. But he also was a hypocrite, using drugs, alcohol and pornography, and raping the 14-year-old daily and repeatedly for nine months. When she showed resistance or hesitation, Smart testified, Mitchell told her the Lord wants her to experience this. He told her she had to experience the lowest form of humanity in order to experience the highest.

Ed Smart struggled to stay composed after the hearing.

Mr. SMART: You know, there were certainly a lot of things that I have never heard before and I had - I had no idea what she had gone through - so much out there. I was very proud of her, the way she was able to be so forthright and basically paint the picture of Brian Mitchell, of what he is.

BERKES: Elizabeth Smart portrayed Mitchell as a master manipulator who acts as he needs to act to get what he wants.

U.S. attorney Brett Tolman.

Mr. TOLMAN: It is the position of the United States that he has attempted to fool or to deceive the system, and we intend to try to prove that.

BERKES: But Bob Steele, Mitchell's federal defender, says evidence of this manipulation does not automatically lead to mental competency.

Mr. BOB STEELE (Defense Attorney): I mean, I understand what they're saying. They say that's the core of his behavior. And I think we're saying no, the core is the mental illness.

BERKES: State courts twice found Mitchell incompetent and unable to assist in his own defense. The federal prosecution is a final attempt to put Mitchell on trial. The competency hearing resumes November 30th. Smart's testimony was scheduled early so she can proceed with a Mormon mission.

Defense attorney Steele said there's no dispute about the facts Smart described.

Mr. STEELE: Nobody is saying that is not what happened. There are different opinions about what all that means. I think the experts disagree.

BERKES: On the witness stand, Smart said Mitchell threatened to kill her if she tried to run away or call for help. She spoke clearly and directly and without fear, it seemed, confronting her alleged attacker with words he could not take away.

Howard Berkes, NPR News, Salt Lake City.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.