Jack Mills, convicted of shooting a Santa Barbara man in the head during an attempted robbery in March 2010, was sentenced Monday morning to 148 years to life in prison.
The sentencing came after Judge Frank Ochoa denied two motions from defense attorney Steve Balash — one to dismiss the robbery charge, the other for a new trial. Balash said there is no evidence the incident was a robbery attempt, which Ochoa disagreed with.
In a March verdict, a Santa Barbara jury found that Jack Mills and his wife, Rebecca Lee Mills, along with two men who were never arrested, attempted to rob a family on Gillespie Street. During the botched robbery, Jack Mills pulled out a gun and fired at the victim, 31-year-old Juan Aguilar. He survived but with serious injuries.
Before Mills was sentenced, Aguilar and family members addressed the court. “I am nervous about being here in front of you all but calm because I know it is going to end,” Aguilar said. He said he still doesn’t know why Mills targeted his family and expressed worry about his future health. “With respect to Mr. Mills, may God forgive him for the life of delinquency he has had,” Aguilar said.
Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Ladinig said Aguilar is doing “remarkably well.” He doesn’t have a problem with his speech, Ladinig explained, despite the fact the bullet penetrated his skull and bullet fragments remain in his head.
Maria Aguilar Ramirez, Juan’s aunt who lives in the Gillespie Street residence, read a letter explaining her life changed the day of the robbery and that every night she double and triple locks her doors. “The panic never leaves me,” she said. “It will always be with me.”
Detectives in March 2010 arrived at the family’s house — near Harding Elementary School — to find Juan Aguilar conscious but stunned from the gunshot. Though detectives didn’t have much information to start their investigation — a description of the alleged getaway vehicle was their only lead — they were eventually able to track the shooting back to Mills and his wife. The two were arrested at a relative’s home in Nevada two weeks after the incident.
After the jury found Jack guilty, Rebecca pleaded no contest to attempted second-degree burglary and was sentenced to three years in prison. She had spent enough time behind bars to be released for time served.
The guilty returns from the jury amounted to a third strike for Mills, which means that his previous convictions — attempted murder, assault with a firearm, and attempted second degree robbery — carry with them a greater prison sentence. A complicated legal combination adds up to the 148 years to life term. Balash, who said Jack Mills is “sorry for what happened,” said he plans to file a notice of appeal.