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Defense attorneys for convicted kidnapper and rapist Brian David Mitchell on Monday announced the 57-year-old man will not appeal his federal court conviction and life sentence for the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart.
Declining to elaborate, Utah Federal Public Defender Robert Steele said only that Mitchell does not want to file an appeal.
But Rebecca Woodridge, Mitchell's former stepdaughter, said that when she discussed a possible appeal with Mitchell, he told her he was "tired" of going through the court process and was ready to move on to "doing the Lord's work" in prison.
"He's tired. He looks tired, he feels tired, he's ready to move forward," Woodridge told The Tribune on Monday. "He looks at [prison] as moving onto the next part of serving the Lord."
The decision brings finality to Mitchell's federal court case, which began in 2008. State court charges filed against Mitchell in 2003 are expected to be dismissed this week, which will allow the former street preacher's official transfer to federal custody.
Ed Smart, Elizabeth Smart's father, said he is pleased Mitchell won't be fighting his federal court conviction.
"We couldn't be happier that we're at this state," Ed Smart said. "We felt pretty confident that after the trial that this would be the ending. It's great to be here and see it close."
Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said federal prosecutors also are relieved.
"We are pleased with today's developments. They bring some finality and closure to Elizabeth and her family, which is very important to us," Rydalch said.
Mitchell's wife and co-defendant, Wanda Eileen Barzee, 65, testified during Mitchell's December trial that he 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.
In June 2002, Mitchell abducted Elizabeth Smart, who was then 14 years old, at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home. Smart testified that he raped her almost daily during nine months of captivity, which included a journey to California and back to Utah. Smart was rescued, and Mitchell and Barzee were arrested, after the three were spotted on a Sandy street in March 2003.
Mitchell's defense team contended at trial that he was insane when he committed the crimes. But a 12-member jury convicted Mitchell of felony kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
Several jurors said during a post-verdict interview with reporters that they believed Mitchell was mentally ill, but not that he suffered from a "severe" mental illness, which is required for an insanity defense. The jurors also found Mitchell knew right from wrong, which exempted him from claiming insanity.
On May 25, Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball.
Mitchell who is currently housed at the Salt Lake County jail has declined multiple interview requests from The Tribune.
Woodridge, who has visited Mitchell regularly at the jail, said she hopes to see him one last time before he is sent to a federal prison.
"I'll wish him well. We've talked a little about staying in touch. I've asked him to please write back. Unless he writes back, he's by himself," said Woodridge. She said she keeps in touch with the man who sexually abused her as a child because she has forgiven him, and because staying in contact is part of her healing process.
As a security measure, the Federal Bureau of Prisons will not announce where Mitchell will serve his time until after he has been transported.
Inmates receive their prison assignments based on their prior history, including the type of violence acts and sex offenses they've committed, said Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. Judges typically submit recommendations for where convicts should be housed, and an inmate is usually placed within 500 miles from his or her residence if possible, Ross said.
"We consider a number of factors," he said, including an inmate's security and medical needs.
Patrick Corum, a defense attorney who represented Mitchell in state court, said he is disappointed his client will go to prison and not the Utah State Hospital. State defense attorneys aren't challenging a motion by state prosecutors to dismiss the case, but Corum said he still questions the legality of trying Mitchell in federal court after a state court judge ruled he was mentally incompetent.
"Legally, we feel there is plenty of reason to challenge the dismissal [of Mitchell's state case]," Corum said. But he said Mitchell's wishes were to spend the rest of his life in prison and not the state hospital.
"We feel that the mentally ill should not be housed in jails and prisons. They should be in therapeutic care. We have not received any assurances that he will receive therapeutic care in the [prison] system," Corum said.
The resolution of Mitchell's federal court case comes as a now-23-year-old Smart prepares to embark on a television career with ABC News.
Network officials announced July 7 that Smart will be an ABC News contributor, meaning she will lend her expertise as a kidnapping survivor when there's a high-profile missing persons case to cover. Julie Townsend, a network spokeswoman for ABC News, has said Smart will work with programs like "Good Morning America," "ABC World News Tonight" and "Nightline."
In a prepared statement, Smart said her new job will help her publicly advance child advocacy issues.
"I am committed to giving back and getting involved where I can make the greatest difference ... ." she said.
"Partnering with ABC provides a powerful tool to help me accomplish this." Smart added."I look forward to working to create awareness for and helping bring other missing children home as well as helping to prevent others from experiencing what I went through."
During Mitchell's sentencing, Smart told him: "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."
In addition to her job with ABC News, Smart has said she intends to work with crime victims through her foundation, The Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which is focused on preventing child abuse. The foundation will focus on prevention, education and promoting radKIDS (Resisting Aggression Defensively) a program that teaches children about calling 911 and making defensive moves against attackers.
The Smart family also intends to keep raising awareness about child crime victims, Ed Smart said Monday. He expressed frustration about government budget cuts to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which works to crack down on sex offenders who target children online. He said he and the rest of his family will work to lobby against the proposed cuts in Washington, adding that "oil subsidies" shouldn't be more important than protecting children who have been abused.
Co-defendant in Smart case already in federal prison
Brian David Mitchell, who will soon begin a life prison term for the 2002 kidnapping and rape of Elizabeth Smart, joins his wife in the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons system.
Wanda Eileen Barzee, 65, is serving a 15-year term at a federal prison in Texas for her part in Smart's abduction.
A federal judge gave Barzee credit for seven years she had already spent at both the Utah State Hospital and the Salt Lake County jail for her role in holding Smart captive. Barzee's federal time is running concurrently with a one-to-15-year state conviction for the July 2002 attempted kidnapping of Smart's cousin. Barzee will be eligible for state parole in 2018, but could remain in prison until 2024.