Jett Simmons McBride was legally insane when he plowed his car into a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crew in Fresno last year, a jury ruled Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.
Instead of going to prison, McBride, 55, will likely be sent to a state hospital until his mental illness is under control and no longer poses a threat to the public, his lawyer said.
The jury's verdict capped a monthlong trial in Fresno County Superior Court in which McBride testified that he thought he was Jesus Christ when he placed his hands on PG&E employee Rayshawn Neely, who was pinned under the utility truck.
While Neely's co-workers and bystanders fought with McBride, he stripped naked because he believed he was headed to heaven, defense attorney Scott Baly said.
"It's clear he didn't know what he was doing," Baly said after the verdict was announced in Judge Arlan Harrell's courtroom. "If he could, he would tell them he was sorry."
The jury that declared McBride insane convicted him last week of assault with a deadly weapon for driving his car into the utility workers, but acquitted him of the more serious charge of attempting to murder Neely.
Prosecutor Becky Gong earned the conviction without having her star witness -- Kai the hitchhiker, who told police that he stopped the Feb. 1 attack by hitting McBride in the head with his hatchet three times.
Kai, whose real name is Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, never made it to court to testify. He is in a jail after being accused of killing a 73-year-old manin New Jersey.
Gong contended McBride intentionally aimed his car toward the PG&E workers. He then got out of his vehicle and assaulted one of the employees near Marks and McKinley avenues west of Highway 99.
But Baly said McBride suffers from a bipolar/manic disorder and never intended to hurt anyone.
After McBride was found guilty, the trial shifted to the sanity phase where three doctors -- two for the defense and one for the prosecution -- all said McBride had suffered a psychotic episode when he plowed into the utility truck, Baly said.
The doctors testified that McBride also believed he influenced the resignation of Hillary Clinton and Pope Benedict XVI, and is spooked by such things as "white crosses" and "Russians." He also believed he was being tracked by the government and others.
The doctors said McBride has a marijuana drug problem. McBride, however, told the physicians that the drug calms him down -- not incite a fit of rage.
Jurors deliberated over three days before deciding McBride was insane. For his crimes, he would have faced up to nine years in prison. How long he will stay in a state hospital is not yet known.
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