An alleged skinhead who was found guilty of attempted premeditated and deliberate murder and assault with a deadly weapon related to two jailhouse attacks on inmates in 2008 was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison Monday afternoon.
A jury found that Kenneth Barber, 42, who was in jail at the time facing drug charges, attacked two men in the Santa Barbara County Jail, and the sentence handed down by Judge Frank Ochoa means Barber will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
The sentencing came after the judge rejected Barber’s motion for a new trial. Defense attorney Joseph Allen told the judge he didn’t believe there was enough evidence to find a specific intent to kill, but the judge disagreed. Testimony showed that Barber was working out with one inmate in a cell when Barber became upset with what he apparently perceived to be a slight and left the room. Barber returned, and extended his arms like he wanted wanted to give the man a hug, but instead, sliced the side of his neck. Barber then went on to attack another inmate, the jury found, though that victim, in trial testimony, refused to tell the jury exactly what happened.
At Barber’s sentencing Monday, prosecutor Kimberly Smith reviewed Barber’s criminal history, which apparently began in New York in 1989, and included several subsequent assaults. He served a prison term for mayhem when he bit a man’s ear, and was in Santa Barbara County Jail on outstanding drug charges when he attacked the two men. A previous strike doubled the attempted murder sentence, and various other enhancements extended his sentence to at least 40 years in prison.
“He is a very or, I should say, an incredibly dangerous person,” Smith told Ochoa on Monday. She told the court Barber used his status to engage in “incredibly dangerous tactics,” taking information and using it to intimidate witnesses and their families. During trial, Smith presented evidence that Barber was sending coded messages through the mail to associates of the Aryan Brotherhood which contained the names and addresses of witnesses in the case. “He absolutely deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison,” she said.
At the time of the attack in August 2008, Barber was in a section of the jail that holds the hardcore general population inmates, typically those with prior prison terms or affiliations with street or prison gangs.