Meeting Elizabeth Smart

Yeah, so today I went to the Elizabeth Smart cocktail party and speech in Fort Wayne. I had a blast, frankly. I’m really glad I went.

I had a fashion emergency beforehand, the first one in my entire life. Five minutes before I was supposed to leave to go to the Scottish Rite Auditorium where the event was being held, I found out my shoes (patent-leather sandals) had died. The soles were coming off and flapping. I tried taping them back on but (a) the tape showed and (b) it didn’t work anyway. I’ve always hated those shoes, but they were my only pair of dress shoes and I could hardly show up at a cocktail party in sneakers. I had to frantically run to the store and grab the first pair of dress shoes I saw, and ask a clerk to cut the tags off so I could put them on right then and there. Fortunately I was only a few minutes late for the cocktail party (fashionably late you might say) and plenty of people arrived after me.

Everyone was given a booklet about dealing with abduction, called “You’re Not Alone: The Journey From Abduction to Empowerment.” I was able to speak to Elizabeth for a few minutes and she autographed the booklet. She is even prettier in person than she looks in the pictures. I told her I really admired her for refusing to let her horrific experience ruin her life, and that I had used her as an example for myself in that regard. Her husband Matthew was also there, and I chatted with him a bit. Other people asked him where he’d met Elizabeth and he explained about the mission in France, and I asked him if French people really went on strike as often as it seemed like. “Yes,” he said, “they’re always striking. For the smallest of reasons. They’re never happy.”

After I had my few minutes with Elizabeth, the TV reporter who was covering the event approached me and asked to interview me on camera. I said okay, and she basically asked me what Elizabeth and I had talked about and I told her. Off-camera, I told the reporter about the Charley Project. And I did get a sound bite in the resulting news broadcast, see here.

Elizabeth’s speech was before the cocktail party. She basically told the story of her abduction, including details I hadn’t previously heard about. She’s a very good speaker. I’m not given to getting all emotional about such things but I found myself getting a little choked up when she talked about what she went through.

And on top of it all, three different people complimented me on my dress.

It was quite an evening.

Elizabeth Smart gets married

I wrote earlier about how Elizabeth Smart had gotten engaged and was talking about a summer wedding. Well, she decided to get it over with quickly — presumably to avoid media attention — and married in Hawaii yesterday, in the presence of only her immediate family. She and the lucky man, Matthew Gilmour, will honeymoon at an undisclosed location and then live in Salt Lake City.

I hope her honeymoon plans don’t conflict with her scheduled speech in Fort Wayne on March 8, which I plan to attend. I bought a ticket for both the speech and cocktail party — meaning I should get a chance to meet her in person.

Elizabeth Smart to marry

Per ABC News and loads of other news outlets: Elizabeth Smart has gotten engaged to marry. Many of the articles don’t name the suitor, but The Daily Mail (perhaps not the most reliable source?) says he’s Matthew Gilmour, age 21, from Scotland. They plan to marry in the summer.

All the best to her; I hope this marriage works out. She is a very strong, resilient young woman who has been through a lot.

Very good article about Elizabeth Smart and others

I found this excellent article called “Elizabeth’s choice: Take path to advocacy or fade into ‘normal’?” It talks about the possibility that Elizabeth will either become a crime victims’ advocate or just have a normal obscure life and marry and have kids or what. It also talks about two crime victims (one case was a shooting, the other a gang rape) that became victims’ advocates. One works as an attorney for crime victims and the other is a public speaker and on the Utah Domestic Violence Council.

Brian Mitchell gets life in prison

The two life sentences come as a surprise to exactly nobody. The judge pretty much had no choice. Anything else would have been political suicide (except the death penalty, which was not an option).

Elizabeth Smart spoke out at the sentencing and to the media later, saying she was glad it was over, etc., and telling Mitchell she was having a wonderful life, no thanks to him. Mitchell did what he usually does, which is sit and sing hymns. I reckon Elizabeth didn’t much care what he had to say in any case.

The Examiner
The Guardian
The Salt Lake Tribune
The Los Angeles Times

More on Elizabeth Smart

I wrote earlier that the defense is arguing Elizabeth didn’t suffer “extreme psychological injury” from her kidnapping, rape and abuse at the hands of Brian David Mitchell. I found an editorial about this; the first sentence sums it up perfectly: “Even the worst criminals are entitled to legal representation, but do attorneys have to make offensive comments while defending them?” Another editorial argues that Mitchell’s attorney is just trying to defend his client as he is constitutionally obliged to do. To coin a cliche, it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor is of course arguing for a life sentence for Mitchell. The minimum he can get is 30 years.

“A life sentence is necessary to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant,” prosecutors wrote. ” … the defendant is a pedophile who has victimized not only Ms. Smart, but other children as well.

“Not only is the defendant a recidivist, but his refusal to acknowledge the wrongfulness of his conduct poses an even greater risk of future crimes against children. This defendant cannot be released back into society.”

Prosecutors also noted Smart’s vulnerability at the time of her abduction.

“The defendant knew Ms. Smart was particularly vulnerable to his crimes because of the unusually heinous, cruel, brutal, degrading and humiliating abuse to which he subjected her,” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant rendered her vulnerable by intentionally creating a climate of fear for her own safety and that of her family. When he first abducted her, he held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her and her family. Throughout her captivity, he continually threatened to kill her and her family.”

In total agreement there.

And, from the comments section of the aforementioned article, a dirty joke. One commenter said, “What he deserves is castration. Then put him in the prisons general population until his castration has healed. Once that is complete, a public hanging would be in order.” Another replied, “But he wouldn’t be hanging anymore.”

Elizabeth herself just did a rare interview with the press. Read about it here, or read the transcript here. She points out that May 25, Mitchell’s sentencing date, is also National Missing Children’s Day. A neat little parallel.

Elizabeth is an incredibly strong woman and I really admire her. I actually looked to her for some coping techniques after my own experience: don’t let it define you, don’t let him take from you any more than he already has, rely on your support system and do your best to get on with life because if you can do that, you’re not letting him win.

Brian Mitchell’s attorney claims Elizabeth Smart wasn’t very traumatized

Brian David Mitchell is going to be sentenced soon for kidnapping fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, holding her captive for nine months, starving her, forcing her to take alcohol and drugs, and raping her repeatedly. One of the aggravating factors put forth by the prosecution is that she suffered “extreme psychological injury.” Well, Mitchell’s defense attorney is saying Elizabeth DIDN’T suffer extreme psychological injury from what he calls Mitchell’s “extreme conduct.” He points out her statements that the kidnapping didn’t destroy her life and her future, her composure while on the witness stand, and the fact that she’s a well-functioning, stable adult who’s completing a college degree.

This is ridiculous. Elizabeth appears to have admirable courage and fortitude and has certainly coped with her situation much better than most people would, but NO ONE can go through what she went through without being very traumatized. The attorney is grasping at straws — probably because straws are all he has to grasp at. There’s not much to say to mitigate Mitchell’s crimes. But it’s still really not classy to try to use Elizabeth’s strength as an excuse to give Mitchell a light sentence.

The attorney also argues that the judge ought to take Mitchell’s (not great) physical health and his (very poor) mental health as a factor in sentencing. I can see more sense in that. But let’s face it. The guy is 57 years old now. Even if he doesn’t actually get a life sentence, he will die in prison. And he deserves it.

Some of the articles suggest that Mitchell’s lawyer is only trying to make sure Mitchell will not be able to appeal on the grounds of ineffective counsel. It is the duty of a defense attorney to pursue every possible means to help their client, but that doesn’t mean we the public have to like it.

Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune 2
United Press International
The Deseret News (a long one)
Fox 13

Brian David Mitchell convicted

As I’m sure everyone knows by now, Brian David Mitchell has been convicted of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart and will face a sentence of up to life in prison. He won’t be sentenced till May. My guess is that he’ll spend most of his time in solitary to protect him from the other prisoners.

Elizabeth is, understandably, very happy with the verdict. She may be even happier that the case, after, what, eight years, is finally, finally finished.