Kidnapper Brian David Mitchell Sentenced to Life

By Robin Enos on May 25, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in U.S. District Court Wednesday, reports Reuters.

Smart, now 23 but only 14 when kidnapped by Mitchell, testified in excruciating detail about the nine months she was held by Mitchell. The kidnapping period included four months in Utah and five months in California, Reuters reports.

Utah state courts refused to prosecute Mitchell, on grounds of mental illness, reports Reuters.

So other than Judge Kimball finding Mitchell sane, why did federal law allow prosecution?

The Mann Act outlaws transporting minors across state lines for immoral purposes.

The "across state lines" part gives federal courts jurisdiction.

The federal law under which Mitchell was convicted and sentenced reads as follows:

"A person who knowingly transports an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years... with intent that the individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity... shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life."

A Salt Lake City jury convicted Mitchell in December 2010. Mitchell, 57, received his sentence from U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball.

Prosecutors satisfied a jury that Utah law outlawed sexual contact with a 14-year-old, and that Mitchell transported the underage Smart from Utah to California for purposes of sexual contact.

The sentence could have been as little as 10 years, or as much as life. Judge Kimball went for life.

With Brian David Mitchell sentenced, it's interesting to consider how me might have evaded justice had he not transported Elizabeth Smart out of Utah. Mitchell now joins his convicted accomplice Wanda Barzee in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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