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CA ex-gov apologizes to slain victim's kin

January 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has issued an apology to a murder victim's family, after he reduced the sentence for Esteban Nunez, the son of former Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez.The parents of slain college student Luis Santos have been critical of the former governor's move. They accuse Schwarzenegger of granting a favor to a political ally. Now it appears Schwarzenegger is apologizing for not informing the victim's family of his decision.

But according to Santos' mother, an apology is not enough.

"I think he looks ridiculous having sent this letter way after the fact, and after trying to sneak it by us on his last hour of office," said Kathy Santos.

Kathy Santos called the former governor's letter a feeble attempt at damage control. In the letter, which is dated Jan. 5, Schwarzenegger apologized for failing to warn the Santos family that he was commuting Nunez's manslaughter sentence.

Then Schwarzenegger went on to write, "As a father I believe there is no sentence too harsh for the death of your son. But our system of justice demands that the facts of this case be weighed without the passion of a father's rage. And the facts of this case do not support equal sentences for both men."

"My interpretation of this letter is that he's really saying to my husband and I, 'Too bad for you guys, but I'm going to give this killer a break, because I can," said Santos.

In 2008, Nunez and co-defendant Ryan Jett attacked and fatally stabbed the 22-year-old San Diego college student during a fight after being denied entry to a party.

Authorities acknowledge it was Jett who delivered the fatal wound to Santos, but under California law Nunez's involvement made him equally responsible for the death.

Both men were sentenced to 16 years in prison. But in his last hours in office, Schwarzenegger reduced Nunez's sentence to just seven years.

Kathy Santos and her husband are seeking legal advice about possibly filing a lawsuit against the governor. They believe their constitutional rights as victims have been violated because they were not notified prior to the governor's action.

There has been no comment from the Schwarzenegger camp.