A federal judge on Monday ruled that the man charged in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart is competent to stand trial, paving the way for him to face charges nearly eight years after the girl was snatched from her bedroom.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball wrote in a 149-page ruling that Brian David Mitchell, 56, "does not presently suffer from a mental disease or defect that impedes his rational and factual understanding" of the proceedings against him.
A court hearing is scheduled on March 26 to set a trial date.
Smart was 14 when she was taken at knifepoint from the bedroom of her Salt Lake City home in 2002, sparking a search that riveted the nation. Nine months later, in March 2003, Brian David Mitchell and his now-estranged wife Wanda Eileen Barzee were arrested after they were spotted walking on a suburban street with Smart.
It was only later that the horrifying details came to light: Smart was forced into a ritual marriage and repeatedly raped.
The ruling follows a 10-day competency hearing held for Mitchell last year, where experts who testified split in their opinions about Mitchell's competency.
The prosecution's expert, New York forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, concluded the Mitchell suffers from a range of disorders, including pedophilia, anti-social and narcissistic personality disorders, but said he was not psychotic or delusional.
The key expert for the defense, Dr. Jennifer Skeem, diagnosed Mitchell with a delusional disorder and said he was incompetent.
But the judge agreed with Welner, who said Mitchell was faking mental illness to avoid responsibility for wrongdoing. Welner described Mitchell as an "effectively misleading psychopath" who has duped those around him into thinking he is incompetent.
During many court proceedings Mitchell has been removed from court because he breaks into song, disrupting proceedings.
"The court agrees with Dr. Welner that Mitchell's singing in court is a contrivance to derail the proceedings and create the false impression that he is unable to control his behavior," Kimball wrote.
Mitchell's court-appointed attorney, Robert Steele, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Monday.
Carlie Christensen, the acting U.S. Attorney for Utah, applauded the ruling Monday, calling it a significant step in holding Mitchell accountable.
"Elizabeth Smart, her family and this community have waited many years for resolution of this case," Christensen said.
Mitchell was indicted in federal court in 2008 on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.
In November, Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in a plead deal with federal prosecutors.
The 64-year-old Barzee could face a life sentence for the kidnapping charge and up to 15 years for the second charge.
Terms of Barzee's plea deal have not been made public reports CBS News correspondent Whit Johnson but the big question on everyone's mind is, will she testify against her estranged husband?
Smart, now 21, was forced to relive her gut-wrenching ordeal .
The next day her father, Ed Smart, told CBS' "The Early Show," "I feel there's greater prospect of this nightmare coming to an end."