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Ed Smart Says He Wants a Plea Deal

Ed Smart Says He Wants a Plea Deal

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The father of Elizabeth Smart says the family wants a quick resolution to the kidnapping and sexual assault charges against the girl's alleged abductor, Brian David Mitchell -- even if that means a plea deal.

KSL Newsradio first reported Ed Smart's comments here on Reached later at his home by The Associated Press, Smart expressed doubt that anything could be gained by Mitchell's upcoming trial.

"I'd just as soon have a plea deal and the whole thing be finished," Smart said.

Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, are charged with kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated burglary and attempted aggravated kidnapping in the 2002 abduction. They're also charged in the attempted abduction of Elizabeth's cousin seven weeks after Elizabeth's kidnapping.

Most of the charges against the couple are first-degree felonies, each carrying a range of punishment between five years and life in prison.

Smart said the important thing is that the 51-year-old Mitchell stay in jail, which is where he's been since he and Barzee were found with Elizabeth in a Salt Lake City suburb nine months after she was taken.

Smart has said he's reluctant to have his daughter suffer the rigors of reliving the case through a trial, much less take the stand.

"Whether we went ahead and made some kind of plea agreement and knocked some of the charges off it wouldn't make that big a difference," Smart said.

Elizabeth agrees, he said. "If there isn't some benefit from doing it, why go through it?"

Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom said Smart's sentiments were "news to me" and that his office was unaware of any official discussions with the family about a plea bargain.

Smart said he made the comments in response to a reporter's questions about a second round of competency hearings for Mitchell, scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

"I just want to make our feelings known," Smart said. "I know that the D.A's office has had to put up with a lot."

In August, 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton ruled Mitchell was competent to stand trial after the defense waived a scheduled three-day preliminary hearing.

But Atherton ordered new competency hearings for Mitchell last month after the former street preacher began singing a Christmas hymn during a court appearance -- setting up this week's court appearance. If found competent, Mitchell is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 1.

Prosecutors say Mitchell and Barzee kidnapped then-14-year-old Elizabeth from her room at knifepoint in June 2002, took her into the foothills near her home, sexually assaulted her and kept her as Mitchell's second wife. An excommunicated Mormon and self-proclaimed prophet, Mitchell had written a rambling manifesto espousing the virtues of polygamy.

The mainstream Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has disavowed polygamy and excommunicates those who practice it.

Barzee, 59, has twice been found incompetent to stand trial, and is undergoing treatment at a state mental hospital. She is scheduled to be re-evaluated in August, and has filed for divorce from Mitchell.

"I expected a circus from day one with him based on what I heard from Elizabeth," Smart said. "I just think it would be great to have it over with."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-01-04-05 2033MST

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