A nomadic drifter-turned-internet celebrity who racked up millions of views on YouTube and even once appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! was sentenced to 57 years in prison on Thursday for the murder of 73-year-old New Jersey lawyer.
Caleb McGillivary, better known as "Kai the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker," achieved internet fame in 2013 for an interview with a California television news station. Pantomiming the entire episode, the shaggy, bandana-wearing Canadian told the cameras how he had beaten a man with a hatchet who was allegedly about to attack two women at a traffic intersection.
“So I f---ing ran up behind him with a hatchet,” McGillivary said to Fox affiliate KMPH. “Smash! Smash! Smash!”
More than six years later, McGillivary is now facing nearly 60 years behind bars for the murder of 73-year-old military veteran and New Jersey attorney Joseph Galfy, whom prosecutors said he met in Times Square just months after he had gone wildly viral.
But it’s a crime McGillivary denies committing.
“I'm still innocent and I'm still telling the truth,” McGillivary wrote in a prepared statement he delivered to the courts before he was sentenced.
“Despite the treachery of my former counsel and despite the misconduct of the malicious prosecution and despite the bias of the cronies on the bench I will overturn your false conviction and your worthless sentence,” he added. “This is nothing but a sham trial you railroaded an innocent man. Shame on you.”
During his trial, McGillivary claimed Galfy, whom he was staying with temporarily, drugged and raped him, and that his killing was self-defense. He also alleged authorities covered up or destroyed that evidence. McGillivary was convicted in April following a four-week trial. He called that ruling a “false conviction” and claimed his own defense attorney John Cito, purposely sabotaged his case and withheld expert testimony.
“He threw my case,” McGillivary told Oxygen.com. “That is not somebody who is representing me.”
Cito didn't return messages from Oxygen.com to comment.
McGillivary now has 45 days to appeal his sentence.
“Yesterday’s sentence was the result of an unfair trial and an unjustly obtained conviction,” McGillivary’s paralegal Ashely Bignault told Oxygen.com. “The trial, conviction, and sentence are a travesty of justice.”
Ahead of McGilllivary’s sentencing, Bignault filed several motions to the Superior Court of Union County requesting a new trial on the 30-year-old’s behalf.
“Kai will appeal, and rightly so,” she added. “We hope to see a new trial in this case, and we hope that when we do, it will be a fair trial. Everyone charged with a crime deserves to be effectively represented and defended, regardless of the ability to pay for same, and everyone charged with a crime deserves a fair trial. Kai received neither.”
Bignault also claimed that McGillivary has been denied attorney access and that she’s been “harrassed” by correctional officials in carrying out her paralegal work on his case.
“We have been fighting tooth and nail for his fair treatment since he was transferred from Union County to Essex County,” she said.
McGillivary told Oxygen.com that he's hoping to retain the counsel of Kathleen Zellner, the fiercely meticulous defense attorney who’s built a career on overturning wrongful convictions. Zellner recently appeared in the second season of Netflix’s true crime documentary “Making a Murderer” and is the acting attorney of Steven Avery, one of that series' subjects.
Despite McGillivary’s self-defense claim, authorities “leveraged voluminous quantities of surveillance footage, digital cell phone data, and other forms of evidence to identify McGillvary as a suspect in the case,” Union County Assistant Prosecutors Scott Peterson and Jillian Reyes said.
On May 13, 2013, Clark Police found Galfy’s partially clothed body in his bedroom.
“[Galfy] sustained numerous serious blunt-force injuries to his face, head, neck, chest, and arms, including multiple fractures to the neck, skull, and ribs, plus severe contusions, abrasions, and bleeding – injuries that contradicted McGillivary’s self-defense claim,” according to an Office of the Union County Prosecutor press release.
“He was helpless, prone on the ground, and in agony,” Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch said, who called the crime “a byproduct of unrestrained rage.”
“You are crafty, you are cunning, you are disingenuous, and you are manipulative,” Kirsch said to McGillivary. “And when you become eligible for parole, you will still be younger than Mr. Galfy was when you murdered him.”
McGillivary must serve at least 85 percent of his 57-year sentence before he’s eligible for parole, according to prosecutors.
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