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A Florence woman on Friday was sentenced to 8½ years in prison after pleading guilty to terrorism and conspiracy to commit misconduct using weapons.

Michelle Marie Bastian was sentenced by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Danielle Viola. Viola also ordered that Bastian, 50, be placed on lifetime probation upon her release from custody.

In his statements before the sentencing, Deputy County Attorney Blaine Gadow asked the judge to follow the sentence of 8½ to 10 years in prison stipulated in the plea agreement.

He said that Bastian sent ISIS-inspired publications and bomb-making materials to her husband, Thomas Orville Bastian, while he was in an Arizona prison. She took steps to disguise the bomb-making materials and used various return addresses to try to cover her tracks, Gadow said. 

Gadow said prosecutors believed that Thomas Bastian, 39, manipulated his wife into committing these acts, but Gadow expressed concern that she would support her husband despite not necessarily sharing his beliefs. 

Defense attorney Shannon Allen said that Bastian was not a religious extremist and wants to rebuild her life after she is released from the Department of Corrections. Allen said that Bastian was “blinded by the relationship” and that she had been employed and contributed to her community.   

Viola said the conveyance of plans for explosive devices into a prison setting that could have caused serious physical injury or death to inmates and staff, along with the fact that the offense involved an accomplice, were aggravating factors in the case.   

However, because Bastian was employed and contributed to her community before her arrest, and because her husband had manipulated her and she had accepted responsibility by accepting the plea deal, those acted as mitigating factors in the case, Viola said. 

 Viola added that Bastian was fortunate that no one had been hurt. 

Thomas Bastian is currently awaiting trial and is charged with terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, conspiracy to commit misconduct involving weapons and conspiracy to promote prison contraband. 

A way to prosecute terror intent

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Arizona Department of Corrections and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office investigated the case.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich attended the sentencing and praised the working relationship that the Attorney General’s Office has with the FBI. That, he said, played a part in stopping the homegrown terrorist case.

“I’m glad we’re here today discussing the number of years in prison she got and the fact that she’s on lifetime probation versus the number of lives that may have been lost,” Brnovich said.

Brnovich said he intends to do everything possible to fight the people who try to harm the community.

Mahin Atif Khan is believed to be the first person in Arizona tried in a terrorism-related case in state, rather than federal, court, and Bastian was the second.

Khan was sentenced in November 2016 to eight years in prison, and he also will remain on lifetime probation after his release.

Unlike federal laws, Arizona statutes do not require an “overt act” to prove terrorism conspiracy, Brnovich said.

While federal prosecutors would have to provide evidence that a suspect, for example, purchased a weapon or explosive, Arizona law only requires evidence of intent, such as an agreement between the suspect and another person.

Brnovich said the relationship Arizona has with federal officials is a national model in being proactive.

“Reality is, you aren’t seeing these types of cases being brought in other state courts. We’re really at the forefront of that … we’re going to make sure that those who mean us harm are prosecuted and sent to prison,” Brnovich said. 

New law raises minimum sentence

Brnovich also said he was proud of a new state law, Senate Bill 1350, taking effect later this summer that increases the mandatory minimum sentence for terror-related crimes to 10 years.

Bastian was prosecuted under the old existing terrorism statutes.


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