Jury finds Jett McBride insane in PG&E worker attack

FRESNO, Calif.

Jett McBride's case grabbed national attention when a hitchhiker in his car hatcheted him and told his story to late night talk shows.

Technically, McBride could go free on Wednesday when the judge is set to rule whether he is sane right now. But in all likelihood, he'll spend at least another year in custody after the violent attack that could've landed him in prison for nine years.

McBride had almost no visible reaction to the jury's decision that could set him free within days. The stoic 55-year-old has come a long way in nearly 12 months of court hearings since he slammed his car into a crew from the electric company.

"He was very different then," said his defense attorney Scott Baly. "I mean, he had a hard time keeping a steady train of thought and focus and speech pattern was irregular and kind of disturbed."

McBride placed much of the blame for the crash on his now infamous passenger, the hitchhiker he picked up in Bakersfield.

The man known as Kai hit McBride with a hatchet three times after the crash as Rayshawn Neely was pinned between McBride's car and his work truck.

The jury never heard from Kai, who's in a New Jersey jail waiting for his own trial on murder charges. But while McBride never had anything good to say about Kai, he tried to apologize to Neely once, and his attorney says he's sorry for hurting another PG&E worker as well.

"If either of them were here, I'm sure he'd say he was sorry they were hurt, and sorry that they are hurt, that they have injuries," Baly said.

The defense attorney says he believes McBride will eventually be a good candidate to be released from custody to try and live a normal life with treatment and supervision. That could happen as soon as Wednesday, but ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says it's more likely to take years for psychiatrists to say McBride's sanity is restored. Even then, he'd have to be monitored.

"If he is released to the community, he has to have someone overseeing him to ensure he has the medications and again, that he's not a danger to the community," Capozzi said.

Baly says McBride is just now realizing he really is mentally ill and it's not going away. His victims were not in court Thursday, but they tell Action News they're just trying to recover from their injuries and move on from the crash. One of them, though, said he hopes McBride does not get off without real consequences.

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