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Schwarzenegger reduces Nunez's son's sentence

January 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
One of Arnold Schwarzenegger's last acts as governor has sparked a firestorm of protest. It's his decision to soften the prison sentence of the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez linked to a college student's killing.One of Governor Schwarzenegger's last acts is drawing harsh criticism from the family of a manslaughter victim. Schwarzenegger commuted the sentence of their son's attacker. The convicted man is the son of a former assembly speaker who is also a friend of the governor's.

Esteban Nunez, the son of former state assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, now will serve seven years, less than his original sentence of 16 years for manslaughter, thanks to the governor's commutation.

In 2008 Nunez and a co-defendant attacked and stabbed to death San Diego college student Luis Santos during a fight after being denied entry to a party.

The victim's mother, Kathy Santos, calls the commutation "very sneaky." The father also is angry.

"We're just numb and we're angry at the same time because we think this is gross injustice," said Luis Santos Sr. Sunday night.

Nunez and three friends attacked Santos and his friends near San Diego State University. Nunez escaped a life term by pleading guilty to manslaughter. Santos's father pleaded with the court.

"Anything short of maximum sentence for each of these four defendants is not like putting salt in our wounds. I think this is like pressing a lit cigarette in our wounds," said Luis Santos Sr.

According to court documents, after the murder the group went to a home where Nunez and Ryan Jett washed their clothes and cleaned the knives. They later threw the knives into the Sacramento River.

Schwarzenegger's commutation documents point out that Esteban Nunez received the same sentence as co-defendant Ryan Jett, even though evidence shows it was Jett who actually delivered the fatal wound to Santos.

The governor wrote that "given Nunez's limited role in Santos' death and considering that Nunez had no criminal record prior to this offense, I believe Nunez's sentence is excessive."

When Fabian Nunez was assembly speaker, he was close to the governor and they worked together on major legislation such as global warming.

"It's very unfortunate that the privileged in this state get different treatment than the people at large," said state Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo). "I don't think it was right."

"I was as shocked as a lot of other people and I'm certainly not going to comment on whatever the reasonings were," said state Sen. Robert Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga).

Fabian Nunez referred all calls to his attorneys.

The governor has no comment.

The district attorney and city attorney in San Diego have strong comments. The city attorney accuses the governor of reducing the sentence to help his political crony's son. And in so doing, he says, the governor undermined the judicial system. The D.A. says it diminishes justice for the victim and re-victimizes his family.