A Santa Barbara man arrested in 2012 for a string of armed parking kiosk robberies and a bank heist he committed in a Santa Claus hat will be sentenced to 28 years in prison after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors on Monday.
Paul Gradias, 51, had previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and has been in custody in County Jail since his arrest. A registered sex offender, he has two prior strikes on his record: one from Santa Barbara County for forcible oral copulation and residential burglary, and one out of Washington State for forcible rape.
According to Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen, Gradias faced life in prison for his most recent burglary charges. Had he been convicted in trial but ruled insane by jurors, he would have been sent to a state hospital rather than prison, she explained. “He could then petition the court for release from the hospital,” Nguyen said. Under the plea agreement, Gradias is required to serve 85 percent of his 28 year sentence, which works out to 23.8 years. He will be sentenced on August 12.
Between early January and late February 2012, Gradias rattled downtown Santa Barbara when he robbed four parking lot kiosks at gunpoint. Wearing a knit cap pulled over his face and snatching money from the kiosk registers after accosting the attendants, Gradias was able to escape on foot each time. On one occasion, he wore an orange construction vest and his getaway was captured by surveillance cameras at the Central Library. His images were distributed to the media, and tips to police led to Gradias’s capture.
Shortly after, a witnesses to a December 2011 robbery at the downtown Bank of America branch identified Gradias as the suspect. A Department of Justice crime lab was then able to match Gradias’s DNA to a sample taken from the Santa Claus hat left at the scene.