Suspect in Elizabeth Smart Kidnapping Competent to Stand Trial

Judge said Brian Mitchell is competent to stand trial for kidnap and rape.

March 1, 2010 — -- The self-proclaimed prophet charged with kidnapping and raping Elizabeth Smart is faking mental illness and is competent to stand trial, a federal judge ruled today.

The ruling came eight years after Brian Mitchell allegedly snatched Smart from her bedroom in Salt Lake City when she was 14.

"It is great, it is the beginning of the end and this time Mitchell is going to have to face the music," Elizabeth's father Ed Smart told ABC News. "We are very grateful that Judge Kimball rendered his decision that Mitchell is competent."

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball wrote that Mitchell, 56, "does not presently suffer from a mental disease or defect that impedes his rational and factual understanding" of the proceedings against him.

During Mitchell's 10 day competency hearing last October, he had to be repeatedly removed from the courtroom because he would break into song. The judge, in his ruling today, concluded that Mitchell's courtroom singing "is a contrivance to derail the proceedings and create the false impression that he is unable to control his behavior."

Kimball's ruling today was applauded by Brett L. Tolman, the former U.S. attorney for Utah.

"It is a very good day for crime victims," Tolman told the ABC News.

"The ruling sends a message to victims that they can be an important part of a case. This case began and ended with important testimony from Elizabeth Smart. I am proud that she got to be a part of this," Tolman said.

Click here to see a PDF of the court documents.

Dr. Michael Welner, one of the country's top forensic psychiatrists, testified that he believed Mitchell was competent. Welner said he spent 1,500 hours investigating the self-proclaimed prophet's mental state.

"It was gratifying," Welner said of the decision. "An ounce of fact is worth a pound of expertise. In this case there were many facts available, but they required an active and energetic effort to seek out and catalogue. These are the responsibilities of forensic psychiatry."

Mitchell has previously been ruled unfit to stand trial in state court by reason of insanity, but Smart took the stand in a federal court last October and for the first time detailed her nine month ordeal allegedly at the hands of Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee.

She testified to being forced to take part in a "marriage ceremony" with Mitchell,to being raped daily and to being kept chained in Mitchell's mountain hideout.

Tolman believes Smart's testimony made all the difference in determining that Mitchell is competent to stand trial.

"This case presented significant challenges," Tolman said. "It had already gone through state systems and was at a standstill. Mitchell was found incompetent in the state system. One of the biggest concerns for me was that there were sides not presented in the state that needed to be brought out. Mitchell was a master manipulator."

Kimball had determined that Smart's testimony was necessary because Mitchell has refused to submit to any psychological evaluations or diagnostic tests, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

A court hearing is set for March 26 to set a trial date.

Elizabeth Smart Moving On, Still Remembers

Smart was 14 when she was taken from her Salt Lake City, Utah, home at knife point. Smart's parents made multiple television appearances, pleading for their daughter's return.

Smart was found nine months later in March 2003 with Barzee and Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet who called himself "Emmanuel" and once had done work at Smart's home.

Barzee has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and has agreed to testify against her husband.

For Smart's father, Ed Smart, there was never a question about Mitchell's competency.

"He's manipulated the system to the nth degree, Ed Smart told "Good Morning America" recently. "He is competent. He is a pedofile and he needs to be brought to trial."

"He hasn't been held accountable yet and I'm hopeful that this will really bring him to accountability," he said.

Last year, Smart told "Good Morning America" that her life was "great" but that she still feared her alleged kidnappers.

"I think that if they were to be released, I think they would come back and they would try to come back after me," she said. "And I don't think ... that any child or any human should ever be in danger of having that happen again."

At the time, Smart expressed hesitation about testifying against the pair.

"I don't think I really want to, but I don't want them getting back out," she said. "I don't want them ever out because I really, really believe that they wouldn't stop."

Welner credited Smart for her courage to testify.

"I think Elizabeth Smart was very informative. She spent parts of days with him for nine months, far more than anyone who dealt with him in my professional experience," Welner said. "It also leaves me very appreciative that Elizabeth Smart would speak to me and overcome fears and pain that many victims are unable to conquer. Other victims will follow her example and stand up and contribute to justice. And they should."

Lee Ferran, Jim Vojtech and The Associated Press contributed to this report.