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Smart's abductor convicted

The verdict concludes a long legal battle. Brian David Mitchell could face a life term.

DENVER - Eight years ago, she was a symbol of stolen innocence, abducted from her bedroom at age 14, chained up and raped for nine months before being rescued.

On Friday, Elizabeth Smart, now 23, symbolized something else in a federal courtroom in Salt Lake City - resilience. She watched a jury convict her kidnapper, the culmination of a long legal battle that featured Smart's calm, methodical testimony about the unspeakable things Brian David Mitchell did to her during her captivity.

"The beginning and end of this story is . . . a woman with extraordinary courage and extraordinary determination," acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen said after the verdict was read.

Smart recounted her travails, Christensen said, "with a candor and clarity and a truthfulness that I think moved all of us. She is a remarkable young woman."

Later, Smart spoke outside the courthouse. "I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened," Smart said.

The abduction of Smart, a member of a devout Mormon family, attracted worldwide attention and prayers for her safe return. Her rescue prompted perhaps an even larger outpouring of relief and joy.

After five hours of deliberations, the jury found Mitchell, 57, guilty of transporting a minor across state lines for sexual exploitation and interstate kidnapping. He could face life in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced May 25.

Mitchell's attorneys never denied the allegations against him. "You do not have a good man here," Robert Steele, one of his lawyers, told jurors during closing arguments.

But his attorneys contended that Mitchell - who said that God had ordered him to abduct Smart and rape her - was clinically insane and should not be convicted.

Prosecutors said that Mitchell, who had used an insanity defense to avoid a conviction in state court, was only playacting. A gaunt man with an unruly gray beard, Mitchell regularly broke into song during the trial, which led to his being exiled to a cell, where he watched testimony by video.

On Friday, as the verdict was announced, he sang a Mormon hymn, "He Died. The Great Redeemer Died."

On the night of June 4, 2002, Smart testified at the trial, she awoke with Mitchell standing over her, a knife to her throat. He threatened to kill her family if she did not go with him. He took her from her family's Salt Lake City home into a canyon, where his then-wife, Wanda Barzee, awaited them.

Mitchell took Smart as a "plural wife" and began raping her, telling her it was God's will and preaching a twisted version of Mormon theology. He and Barzee locked a cable around Smart's leg and chained it to a tree. She spent months living in primitive conditions, and was raped multiple times a day.

In March 2003, a biker spotted Mitchell and Barzee walking with a girl in a Salt Lake City suburb. By then Mitchell, who had done odd jobs for Smart's parents in the past, had been identified as a suspect in her disappearance.

Smart testified she was so scared of Mitchell that she initially didn't identify herself to police when they picked her up.

Barzee pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Now 65, she testified at Mitchell's trial and called him a "great deceiver."

Smart, who's on a break from a Mormon mission in France, said she hoped other victims of sex crimes and abductions would take heart from the verdict. "We can speak out," she said, "and we will be heard."