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Not Guilty Plea In Elizabeth Smart Case

A federal judge has entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the man accused in the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Samuel Alba entered the plea Friday in federal court for Brian David Mitchell.

Mitchell was indicted in March on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. Both charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

A shackled Mitchell entered the courtroom dressed in bright red jail garb and was promptly removed after he started singing hymns. Mitchell then heard the rest of the proceedings via audio from a holding cell with two of his four court-appointed public defenders.

Alba also ordered prosecutors to turn over documents from state proceedings related to Mitchell's competency. The judge set a Nov. 12 hearing to rule on whether the court needs to order another competency evaluation for Mitchell, who suffers from a rare delusional disorder and was twice found incompetent to stand trial by a state court judge.

The same state judge also ruled there was insufficient evidence to conclude that forcing Mitchell to take anti-psychotic drugs would restore his competency. That ruling spurred prosecution of the federal case.

"I don't want to just spin my wheels on something absolutely new if I don't have to," Alba said.

Utah's U.S. attorney, Brett Tolman, wants Mitchell to be evaluated by experts in delusional disorders at federal detention facilities outside Utah.

Mitchell's attorneys disagree.

"In our view the defendant is completely incompetent to assist in his defense," Steve Killpack, head of the Utah Federal Defender Office, told Alba on Friday.

Court papers filed by Killpack ask Alba not to send Mitchell out of state, but to keep him at the Utah State Hospital, where he has been held for the past three years. Doctors there are best equipped to advise the court, the defense contends.

Alba set a Dec. 22 trial date, although Tolman said after the hearing he expects a delay.

Smart was 14 in June 2002 when she was taken at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City bedroom in the middle of the night. Mitchell and his estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, were arrested in March 2003 while walking the streets of a Salt Lake City suburb with Smart.

Barzee also has been found incompetent to stand trial by the state courts and is now receiving forced medication. It's unclear what effect the drugs have had so far.

Barzee was also indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this year. Tolman has said he won't proceed with her case until after the state decides whether treatment will allow Barzee's case to move forward.