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Sunday 20 April 2014

Highway gunman guilty of terrorism

A man who shot at vehicles near a busy highway has been convicted of terrorism

A man who spread fear across Michigan by shooting at vehicles near a busy highway has been convicted of terrorism.

A jury in Howell rejected geologist Raulie Casteel's claim that the shootings were the impulsive result of wild, uncontrolled delusions and paranoia.

Jurors deliberated for two days before returning a guilty verdict against Casteel, 44, of Wixom, who faces up to life in prison when he returns to court on March 3.

"The victims of his shooting spree received justice," state attorney general Bill Schuette said.

Giving evidence in his own defence, Casteel admitted that repeatedly firing his gun at about 24 vehicles in four counties near the highway between Lansing and Detroit over a three-day period in October 2012.

No one was hurt but the hunt for the gunman dominated headlines for days, persuading travellers to change their habits and forcing many schools to keep children inside at break time.

"I can't testify to the number, but I did fire at cars, yes," said Casteel, who kept a handgun on the floorboard of his car near his right leg.

Casteel told the court he was consumed with anxiety while in traffic, most likely from undiagnosed delusions, and believed drivers were part of a government conspiracy against him.

He said he never thought about the consequences of the shootings, only that he wanted "to send a message to back off".

Defence lawyers pleaded for an acquittal on the terrorism charge, arguing there was no premeditation as required by law, but the jury disagreed.

As the verdict was read, Casteel's sister sobbed loudly.

Jurors considered an attempted murder charge against Casteel for shooting at one car, but instead convicted him of a lesser charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. He did not contest five gun charges after police matched the weapon to bullet fragments recovered from vehicles.

After the verdict Casteel's defence team accused prosecutors of piling on charges.

In a separate but related case, Casteel is due in court on Tuesday to be sentenced for shootings that occurred in another county.

He pleaded no contest but mentally ill to assault and firearms charges last year and faces up to 12 years in prison. No terrorism charge was filed by the county prosecutor there.

A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

AP

Press Association

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