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Family: Smart suspectis mentally il

SALT LAKE CITY — The man charged with abducting Elizabeth Smart at knifepoint was dysfunctional and argumentative in childhood, and became increasingly unstable as he went through three marriages, his family testified Wednesday.

His elderly mother, Irene Mitchell, told jurors that she remembered her son as a “little boy and what a darling little boy he was,” but added: “What I see now is not the same person.”

Brian David Mitchell faces federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purposes of sexual activity. Miss Smart was 14 when she was taken from her Utah home. If convicted, the 57-year-old former street preacher could the spend the rest of his life in jail.

Defense attorneys have not disputed the facts of the case — Miss Smart’s abduction on June 5, 2002, or her nine months in captivity — but they contend that Mr. Mitchell suffers from mental illness and can’t be held responsible for his acts. Federal prosecutors, who concluded their case Tuesday, say he is faking mental illness.

WISCONSIN

Man shots TV over Palin show

MADISON — A rural Wisconsin man apparently enraged by Bristol Palin’s “Dancing With the Stars” routine blasted his television with a shotgun, leading to an all-night standoff with a SWAT team, investigators said.

Steven Cowan, 67, was arrested Tuesday morning after officers coaxed him out of his house in Vermont, Wis., a farming community near Madison.

Mr. Cowan, who is accused of threatening his wife with the gun after destroying the television, appeared in a Madison courtroom Wednesday on a charge of second-degree reckless endangerment. His bail was set at $1,500. Mr. Cowan’s attorney at the hearing, Jonas Bednarek, declined to comment.

According to court documents, Janie Cowan said her husband came home Monday from the bar and had a beer with dinner before they settled down to watch “Dancing With the Stars.”

When Miss Palin, the 20-year-old daughter of 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, began her routine, Mr. Cowan jumped up and began swearing, saying something like “The [expletive] politics.” His wife said he was upset that a political figure’s daughter was dancing on TV even though he thought she didn’t have talent.

From wire dispatches and staff reports