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Prosecutors say Mitchell competent to stand trial

SALT LAKE CITY — Street preacher Brian David Mitchell is purposely adopting a fake religious persona, does not suffer a mental illness and is competent to stand trial, according to federal prosecutors.

In December, a 10-day competency hearing was held for the man accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting Elizabeth Smart in 2002. It was Mitchell's third competency hearing overall, and his first in federal court.

On Monday, prosecutors filed a 174-page final report to complement the numerous hours of testimony U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball already has heard.

In their report, prosecutors claimed Mitchell "has voluntarily chosen to adopt a fictitious religious persona to control and manipulate others"; "does not suffer from a mental disease or defect that would render him incompetent to stand trial"; and "even if Mitchell's religious beliefs are delusional, his competence to stand trial is not impaired."

During the 10-day hearing, prosecutors used several expert witnesses and a long list of current or former employees from the Utah State Hospital to paint a picture of Mitchell as a manipulative and cunning person who, despite claims of being a man of God, was very un-Christlike and used religion as a way to get what he wanted, including sex.

A landmark moment in the hearing, and the entire Smart kidnapping saga, came when Elizabeth Smart herself took the witness stand to start the competency hearing early in October, delivering a remarkable account of her time in captivity.

Mitchell's co-defendant and estranged wife, Wanda Barzee, was declared competent to stand trial in her state court proceedings and reached a plea deal that would bring both her state and federal cases to a conclusion. She was interviewed by the prosecution's expert witnesses. Those interviews were recorded and portions played for the court during the competency hearing.

The defense, however, argued Mitchell was not mentally fit to stand trial and used its expert witnesses to portray Mitchell as a person who "fell off a cliff" when it came to his delusions and who showed signs of mental illness as early as his teenage years.

In their report filed Monday, federal prosecutors said even if Mitchell did suffer a mental illness, he met the requirements to be found competent to stand trial because he "possesses both a rational and factual understanding of the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and a sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding," according to court documents.

The defense also was expected to file a final report. Rebuttal reports were due in a couple of weeks. Kimball was expected to make a decision on Mitchell's competency at some point after that.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com