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Raulie Casteel, right, stands with his attorney Doug Mullkoff in Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Mich., on Tuesday during his sentencing. / Carlos Osorio, AP

PONTIAC, Mich. - A judge said she was sympathetic about his mental illness, but nevertheless sent I-96 shooter Raulie Casteel to prison Tuesday for up to 10 years.

"Thank God you were a lousy shot because in this case nobody was actually injured," Judge Denise Langford Morris of Oakland County Circuit Court told Casteel as he stood shackled, in orange jail garb, as five armed deputies stood nearby. "Mental illness is a difficult challenge but it is something you have to seek help for before you engage in criminal activities."

Casteel, 44, terrorized motorists along the Interstate 96 corridor for several days in October 2012, shooting at cars across four counties. Following his arrest, he was diagnosed with a serious mental illness that included delusions. Casteel told investigators he was shooting at cars because he believed they were part of a government conspiracy against him.

Tuesday, Casteel sat quietly in court as the judge ordered him to spend 80 months to 120 months in a Michigan prison. He must also serve an additional two years on a firearms charge. The sentence was part of a plea deal with prosecutors, where Casteel was allowed to plead guilty but mentally ill to nine counts of assault with intent to cause great bodily harm, less than murder.

When the judge asked if he had anything to say, Casteel declined.

Last week, a Livingston County jury convicted Casteel of terrorism for shootings there. He faces up to life in prison when sentenced March 3.

Earlier in the hearing, his lawyer, Douglas Mullkoff told the court his client was a victim of mental illness that took away his free will. He said the illness struck Casteel in midlife, with no warning, and went undiagnosed until after his arrest.

"Raulie Casteel did not chose mental illness. It chose him," Mullkoff said, as Casteel's family sat quietly in the courtroom. "This was the hand he was dealt with out of the blue."

No victims were in the courtroom. Casteel's family members declined to speak as they left the courtroom.

Casteel admitting shooting at cars in Oakland, Ingham, Shiawassee and Livingston counties over the span of several days.

The nearly two dozen shootings, which took place in four counties, terrified the region for weeks, leading commuters to change their driving habits and forcing schools to keep children inside at recess. No one was seriously hurt.

Casteel had faced 60 charges, including attempted murder, in Oakland County for shootings in Commerce Township and Wixom.

His lawyers and family members favored the plea deal, because it allows him to receive the ongoing mental health counseling he wants. Mullkoff has said his client was diagnosed with delusional disorder, a condition associated with maintaining false, persistent beliefs despite evidence to the contrary.

Casteel is a St. Johns, Mich., native who lived in Taylorsville, Ky., before returning to Michigan in 2012 to live with his wife's family.



Copyright 2014USA TODAY

Read the original story: Mich. highway shooter sentenced to up to 10 years

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