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Wanda Barzee sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, gets scolding from Elizabeth Smart’s mother

SHARE Wanda Barzee sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, gets scolding from Elizabeth Smart’s mother

SALT LAKE CITY — Lois Smart stood in the courtroom just a few feet away from Wanda Barzee and delivered a sharp scolding from one mother to another.

"Mothers don't do that to mothers," Smart told the woman accused of kidnapping her daughter Elizabeth Smart. "Mothers don't do that to children."

Almost eight years after Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom in Federal Heights, held hostage for nine months and sexually assaulted, Barzee was sentenced Friday to both state and federal prison.

Barzee was sentenced Friday to 15 years in federal prison for her role in the kidnapping and sexual assault of Elizabeth Smart and one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison for the attempted kidnapping of Smart's then 15-year-old cousin. The sentences were to run concurrently.

Barzee will receive credit in federal prison for the seven years she has been in custody, but she will not receive credit for time served in her state sentence.

Before U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball issued his sentence, he allowed Lois Smart to address Barzee directly.

"What you did to our family and our girl Elizabeth was wrong. It was wrong, and it was evil," Lois Smart said in a calm but very direct manner while staring at Barzee. "You hurt our family in ways you'll never know."

Elizabeth Smart's father, Ed, addressed the court prior to Barzee's sentencing in 3rd District Court. His comments were brief and almost soft-spoken, as he chose simply to speak to Judge Judith Atherton rather than Barzee directly. He said his family went through "nine months of hell." His biggest concern, he said, was that Barzee not have the opportunity to harm anyone else.

Before Lois Smart spoke in federal court, Barzee, wearing jeans, a blouse, an unzipped blue hoodie and white tennis shoes with shackles around her hands and feet, offered an apology for the "pain and suffering I have caused the Smart family."

"I know the gravity of my crimes and the severity they've been," she said to Lois and Ed Smart.

Elizabeth Smart is serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France and was not present at Friday's hearing.

Lois Smart said she believed Barzee's comments were "probably sincere."

Dora Corbett, Barzee's mother, attended the hearing. She appeared to fight back tears as her daughter received her sentence.

"I don't have anything to say," Corbett said outside the federal courthouse. "We knew it was coming, and I'm just glad it's going to be a closure."

Lois Smart said she walked into the courthouse Friday without any intention of speaking. But when Kimball asked if any of Elizabeth Smart's relatives wanted to speak before he issued his sentence, Lois stood up.

"I felt I needed to say it," she explained outside the courtroom.

She told Barzee what her entire family had been through. She talked of how Elizabeth's brothers and sisters each felt sadness or guilt they couldn't help. Elizabeth's younger sister, Mary Katherine, "couldn't function for a long time," she said.

"Wanda, we suffered. But more than that, Elizabeth suffered," Lois Smart said. "It was unconscionable what you did to her."

Smart concluded her speech to Barzee, who sat motionless with a tissue in her hand as she listened, by saying Elizabeth was doing fine today, "not because of your help," and the family had moved on.

"I hope that you'll be able to make peace with your maker," Lois Smart said in conclusion.

In February, Barzee agreed to a plea deal that both state and federal prosecutors described as a "global resolution" to all of the charges against her. In state court, she pleaded "guilty but mentally ill" to one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping, a second-degree felony. That charge was in relation to an attempt by herself and estranged husband and codefendant Brian David Mitchell to kidnap Smart's 15-year-old cousin on July 24, 2002, more than a month after Smart had disappeared.

In November, Barzee pleaded guilty in federal court to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in relation to Smart's abduction. Her plea deal is contingent on her continued cooperation in the criminal proceedings against Mitchell.

Both Kimball and prosecutors noted Friday morning that Barzee had been cooperative to date, particularly in a "critical pre-trial issue."

Prosecutors called the sentence appropriate while noting the plea deal would prevent Elizabeth Smart from having to relive her nightmarish nine months in captivity on the witness stand. Outside the courthouse, however, Ed Smart wasn't as enthusiastic.

"It is what it is," he said. "I think Elizabeth felt it wasn't strong enough."

Ed Smart said he was pleased that Barzee will have to register as a sex offender wherever she lives once she is released from prison.

Kimball strongly recommended Barzee be sent to Carswell Federal Prison in Ft, Worth, Texas. Barzee, 64, will be given credit for time served. With good behavior, she could be released in about seven years, followed by five years of supervised release. On Friday morning, Atherton signed primary custody of Barzee from state custody over to federal authorities.

Barzee's attorney, Scott Williams, said his client's ability to understand the totality of the situation and have insight into her condition and what she has done has increased since she pleaded guilty and continued her treatment program. He believes his client is "genuinely sorry" for what she did.

"Her sense of responsibility is real," he said. "She's living in a manner to one day be fully and spiritually realigned with her LDS faith."

Mitchell, who was ruled not competent to stand trial in state court and ineligible for involuntary medication, was recently found to be competent in federal court following a lengthy competency hearing.

He is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 1.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com