HOWELL, Mich. — A man who kept a swath of southeastern Michigan on edge for weeks by shooting at two dozen vehicles along a busy highway corridor was sentenced to 16 to 40 years in prison on a terrorism conviction Monday.
Jurors in January found Raulie Casteel guilty of terrorism, rejecting his claims that the shooting were the impulsive result of delusions and paranoia.
Casteel, 44, already is serving a six-plus-year sentence that stemmed from a related case in nearby Oakland County.
Defense lawyer Doug Mullkoff sought a lighter sentence, saying his client was “certainly a troubled individual” but not a terrorist.
“Is Raulie Casteel actually a terrorist — is this really what the Legislature had in mind when it passed the Michigan anti-terrorism act in wake of attacks in 2001?” asked Mr. Mullkoff before the sentencing.
“I think they were thinking of Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh. Did Raulie Casteel fit into that category? ... The post-9/11 law passed by Legislature did not contemplate someone who is mentally ill like Mr. Casteel.”
But Judge David Reader of Livingston County Circuit Court said terrorism isn’t necessarily contingent upon the mental state of the perpetrator.
“The daily routines and lives of tens of thousands were affected before any motivation was revealed,” he said. “That’s indeed terror in the opinion of this court.”
Casteel testified that he shot at the other motorists on I-96 and nearby roads between Lansing and Detroit over a three-day period in October, 2012. He said that while in traffic, he said he believed drivers were part of a government conspiracy against him.
He said he only that he wanted “to send a message to back off.”
Defense lawyers pleaded for an acquittal on the terrorism charge, arguing there was no premeditation as required by law. The jury disagreed.
The terrorism charge brought by the state attorney general’s office covered all the shootings in Livingston, Shiawassee, Ingham, and Oakland counties.
Casteel had faced 60 charges, including attempted murder, in Oakland County for shootings in Commerce Township and Wixom before pleading no contest but mentally ill to assault and firearms charges last year.
His attorneys and family favored a plea deal so he could receive counseling.
Mr. Mullkoff has said his client was diagnosed with delusional disorder, a condition associated with maintaining false, persistent beliefs despite evidence to the contrary.
When Casteel, a St. Johns, Mich., native, lived in Taylorsville, Ky., police said that in June, 2012, he complained about aircraft flying too low over his house. No one else had reported low-flying planes.