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Smarts Ask Prosecutors Not to Traumatize Elizabeth

Smarts Ask Prosecutors Not to Traumatize Elizabeth

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Charges against Elizabeth Smart's alleged captors were expected Tuesday morning, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office said.

It was not immediately clear whether charges would be state or federal, or both.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth's family called on prosecutors to make sure they do not traumatize the girl during questioning about the nine months she spent with her captors.

The family met Monday with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office and asked that investigators involve Elizabeth only as much as they need to for a successful prosecution, Smart family spokesman Chris Thomas said.

"They have expressed their concerns for Elizabeth's well-being, and will hold the D.A.'s office accountable for any actions that might victimize her a second time," Thomas said.

Authorities say Elizabeth was abducted from her bedroom at knifepoint by Brian Mitchell on June 5.

Mitchell, 49, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, likely will face federal or state charges by Wednesday, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the Utah U.S. attorney's office.

"There are some good state charges and some good federal charges they're considering," Rydalch said.

Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth were found Wednesday in Sandy, a Salt Lake City suburb.

Attorney Larry Long, who is representing Mitchell, said his client considered Elizabeth's disappearance a "call from God" and took her as his second wife.

Long has suggested that giving his client a light sentence could encourage kidnappers to keep their captives alive.

Mitchell's father made a similar appeal Monday, arguing that any punishment should be tempered by the girl's survival.

"There's a lot of people that kidnap little kids and murder them," said Shirl Mitchell, 83. "He took care of the girl and she came back in good health."

Thomas said Mitchell was wrong to believe he had any kind of relationship with the girl.

"Elizabeth was taken against her will at knifepoint, she's a minor, and whatever rationale Mitchell used to believe that she was his wife and loved him is grossly mistaken," Thomas said. "The definition of love is not degradation, humiliation, or robbing someone's life of control and respect."

In another development Monday, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said he would name an independent commission to examine police handling of the case to provide "a fair, objective review."

Investigators drew criticism for concentrating on potential suspect Richard Ricci even after Elizabeth's younger sister told authorities in October that Mitchell could be the man that took her sister.

Thomas said the family "hopes that those who made egregious errors will be held accountable and those mistakes will not be repeated."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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