HOWELL (WWJ/AP) – Jurors deciding the case of a man who shot at nearly two-dozen vehicles along a Michigan highway corridor are going to get the chance to hear his testimony again.
The Livingston County Circuit Court jury spent four hours Tuesday deliberating the case against Raulie Casteel. He’s charged with terrorism and assault with the intent to commit murder.
They asked Judge David Reader to play back a recording of Casteel’s testimony from Monday. The judge agreed, and the entirety of the 44-year-old defendant’s two-plus hours on the stand will be played first thing Wednesday.
Casteel testified that he fired at vehicles because he thought they were part of a government conspiracy against him. During questioning from his lawyer, Charles Groh, Casteel conceded that he fired at cars, but that he “absolutely” did not intend to hurt or terrorize any of the drivers.
“He testified that, basically, he shot because he believed that he was trying to get rid of demons in his head; that demons were cars following him; that he was in fear for his life and he had anxiety because of people following him,” WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton reported from the courthouse.
Casteel testified that after losing his job, he believed his former employer was “blackballing him” and using its ties to the U.S. Army to prevent him from gaining employment elsewhere. He said he started to believe that the government was monitoring his phone calls and sending helicopters and other low-flying aircraft buzzing over his home in Kentucky.
Casteel also said he sensed broadcasters were trying to send him coded messages while he watched telecasts of Detroit Tigers games.
Casteel said he never thought about the ramifications of the shootings, that he had no intent to murder anyone, and he only wanted “to send a message to back off.”
No one was seriously hurt, but the shootings scared those living along a 100-mile corridor of I-96 that stretched through four counties, where the attacks happened in October 2012.
Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townsend scoffed at the notion that Casteel hadn’t planned the shootings, pointing out that they took place over three days and after Casteel was aware of the media and police attention the shootings had received. He was arrested Nov. 5, 2012.
“If this isn’t a case of terrorism, what is?” said Townsend, who displayed photos of those whose vehicles were targeted, telling jurors that Casteel “was very, very successful at terrorizing the community.”
The shootings that took place in Livingston, Oakland, Shiawassee and Ingham counties forced schoolchildren inside during recess and had the area on edge for weeks.
“His intention was to send a message to the government, and he certainly did,” Townsend said, adding that Casteel “terrorized four counties and probably all of southeast Michigan.”
There is a history of mental illness on his mother’s side of the family, Casteel testified. He said he has received mental health counseling since being jailed and is taking medication. Since then, Casteel said, he has stopped experiencing the extreme feelings of fear and anxiety that preceded the shootings.
Reader told jurors they may not consider mental illness as a defense for Casteel’s actions.
Last year, Casteel pleaded no contest but mentally ill to assault and firearms charges in Oakland County in connection to related shootings that took place there. He faces up to 12 years in prison when he is sentenced Thursday. A no contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes. The mental illness allows him to get treatment in prison.
Casteel is a St. Johns, Mich., native who lived in Taylorsville, Ky., before returning to his home state in 2012.
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