The bizarre case of a man who picked up Kai the hitchhiker before he plowed his car into a PG&E crew in Fresno ended Thursday when a judge sentenced him to a state hospital.
A Fresno County Superior Court jury last month found Jett McBride, 55, guilty of assault for driving his car into an utility truck last year and seriously injuring a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee. He was acquitted of attempted murder.
The jury also ruled that McBride, who testified he thought he was Jesus Christ, was legally insane at the time of the Feb. 1, 2013, attack near Marks and McKinley avenues west of Highway 99.
Because of the jury's verdict, Judge Arlan Harrell said Thursday that McBride will spend up to nine years at Atascadero State Hospital.
If he still poses a danger to the public after nine years, prosecutors can petition the court to keep him confined longer, said attorney Scott Baly, who defended McBride.
In addition, Harrell said hospital staff can give McBride medication without his consent, Baly said.
Outside court, Baly said McBride was frustrated that the jury didn't hear why Kai didn't testify in the trial. If jurors had known Kai face murder charges, McBride believes he would have been found not guilty, Baly said.
Baly said Kai, whose real name is Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, is in jail in New Jersey, accused of killing a 73-year-old man.
On the day of the Fresno attack, McGillvary told a television reporter he stopped the attack on the PG&E crew by hitting McBride in the head with a hatchet three times. His account on a YouTube video -- "Smash, smash, Sa-MASH!" -- received more than 4.4 million views and led to a television appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
McGillvary gave a more detailed account at McBride's preliminary hearing last year. In the courtroom, he dropped F-bombs, talked about smoking marijuana with McBride, and raised both hands to swear himself in as a witness before the judge stopped him.
When the questions got tough, he would say: "I can't go there."
According to Kai's testimony, he was hitchhiking in Bakersfield when he was picked up by McBride, who is from Tacoma, Wash. The two drove north to Fresno, talking about religion along the way.
In the Tower District, Kai testified, McBride gave him money to buy marijuana. Kai said he and McBride then smoked a joint together.
It was then, Kai said, that things started turning bad: McBride recounted a trip to the Virgin Islands where McBride allegedly said he raped a young woman. A few moments later, McBride uttered his comment about being Jesus Christ and then drove directly into the PG&E workers, Kai said.
"I ran up in the back of him and smashed him in the back of his head with that (expletive) hatchet," Kai testified. The blow didn't stop McBride. Neither did a second strike, he said. But after the third blow to the head, McBride "dropped like a sack of potatoes," Kai testified.
At McBride's trial, prosecutor Becky Gong contended McBride intentionally aimed his car at the PG&E workers. But Baly told the jury McBride suffers from bipolar/manic disorder and never intended to hurt anyone. He also pointed out McBride stripped naked and said he was headed to heaven while he fought with the PG&E crew and bystanders.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, firstname.lastname@example.org or @beecourts on Twitter.