- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

From combined dispatches
SALT LAKE CITY Self-proclaimed prophet Brian David Mitchell and his wife were charged yesterday with aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, the teenager taken from her home in June.
The charging document states that Mr. Mitchell, a homeless man who reportedly said that a "vision" commanded him to take seven young brides, sexually assaulted Elizabeth on at least two occasions, the first time on the night she was abducted from her bedroom.
Mr. Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Ilene Barzee, are being held in lieu of $10 million bail each, and conviction could mean life in prison. Mr. Mitchell was to have his initial court appearance today; Mrs. Barzee's initial appearance has not been scheduled.
"We are not dealing with just a religious zealot; we are dealing with a predatory sex offender," District Attorney David Yocom said in announcing the charges.
Mr. Mitchell kidnapped the girl at knife point and threatened to kill her family, prosecutors say. The girl, 14 at the time, was forced to march in her pajamas to a campsite where Mrs. Barzee ordered her to undress. Mr. Mitchell "then committed a rape, attempted rape, forcible sexual abuse or attempted forcible sexual abuse," Detective Mark Sharman said in the affidavit.
The charges worded according to the legal definition of aggravated sexual assault do not specify whether Mr. Mitchell raped the girl or how often the assaults occurred, and neither Mr. Yocom nor Elizabeth's family elaborated.
Family members, who have urged the district attorney to spare the teen the trauma of being questioned on the witness stand, have said she is not pregnant.
Prosecutors said yesterday that they will try to protect Elizabeth's privacy rights if she testifies at the trial, but Mr. Yocom said the defendants "are entitled to confront witnesses; that is an important constitutional right."
"Close the courtroom, videotape, do other things to protect her privacy and interests we will attempt … to do that," Mr. Yocom said.
Family spokesman Chris Thomas said the Smarts would rather Elizabeth did not take the stand, "but they're willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that these two individuals receive the proper punishment."
He added that the family will no longer answer questions from reporters about what happened to Elizabeth.
After a nine-month saga during which they traveled to San Diego, Mr. Mitchell, 49, Mrs. Barzee, 57, and Elizabeth were found Wednesday in Sandy, a Salt Lake City suburb.
Mr. Mitchell and Mrs. Barzee also were charged with burglary. They each face a single count on every charge, for a total of six counts.
An excommunicated Mormon, Mr. Mitchell wrote a tract promoting the "blessing" of polygamy. His wife is reported to have said that the twice-divorced "prophet," who called himself Immanuel David Isaiah, received a vision in 2000 that commanded him to take seven young girls as wives.
Though the founders of the Mormon Church preached and practiced polygamy, the church repudiated the custom in 1890, and excommunicates those who practice it.
In March 2001, Mr. Mitchell proposed to a 20-year-old shoe store clerk who rejected him as "crazy," the Salt Lake Tribune reported yesterday.
Mr. Mitchell told his attorney, Larry Long, that he considers Elizabeth, 15, his wife. Mr. Long said Mr. Mitchell considers his actions a "call from God," not a kidnapping.
But Mr. Yocom said yesterday that the suspect had told him Mr. Long was not his attorney "and had no authority to speak for him."
The charging documents say Mr. Mitchell entered the Smart home June 5 after using a knife to cut a window screen. The teen, dressed in pajamas, was forced at knife point to walk four miles up a mountain trail behind the home to a concealed campsite.
Mr. Mitchell warned her he would harm or kill the Smart family if she resisted, prosecutors said. "She was under the threat of death," Mr. Yocom said.
Prosecutors say that when the three reached the campsite, Mrs. Barzee tried to remove Elizabeth's pajamas. When the girl resisted, Mrs. Barzee threatened to have Mr. Mitchell forcibly do it. Elizabeth complied and Mr. Mitchell sexually assaulted her, the documents say.
The couple held Elizabeth against her will at the campsite until Oct. 8 with little or no shelter, plumbing, water or food, and "a cable was used to restrain her," prosecutors said.
In October, Mr. Mitchell and Mrs. Barzee took Elizabeth to California, where they stayed until March 5, the state says.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Schwendiman said federal charges would be filed "only if and when it is necessary."
Prosecutors said Mr. Mitchell and Mrs. Barzee also attempted to kidnap Elizabeth's cousin July 24. A window screen in the girl's bedroom was cut with a sharp instrument. "The person, in attempting to climb into the bedroom, awoke the minor child and her family, which caused the unknown person to flee," the affidavit said.

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