Lawsuit begins against Schwarzenegger in Nunez son's commutation


The family's lawsuit and the controversy focus on the son of former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, whose sentence was reduced by Schwarzenegger just before he left office. The first hearing on the lawsuit was held Monday.

Outside a Sacramento courtroom, two fathers with two very different points of view spoke about how the justice system is treating their sons.

Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez says his son deserved to have his prison sentence reduced because of what he said was a politically motivated prosecutor. But the victim's family says it's Nunez who used politics to get preferential treatment for his son.

Luis Santos, 22, was stabbed to death near San Diego State University in October 2008.

Esteban Nunez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault charges and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

But during his final hours in office, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced Nunez's jail term to six years. So now the Santos family is suing to have the original sentence restored.

"I feel that he was stabbed in the back by politicians after his death," said Kathy Santos, Luis's mother. "I think that they completely disrespected him."

In a Sacramento courtroom Monday, the Santos family moved forward with their lawsuit that alleges that Schwarzenegger violated "/*Marsy's Law*/," a state law that allows victims to express their views before sentencing.

"This case has been politicized from the beginning, and that our hope is that in a different court setting, that folks will see the facts for what they are," said Fabian Nunez.

Fabian Nunez attended the hearing, and he says his son's original sentence came at the hands of a prosecutor with political motivations, a statement that outraged the victim's father, who was standing nearby.

"He believes that things should be done by politicians in closed doors, behind the scene, away from the public, away from scrutiny, and this is not the way to do things," said Fred Santos, Luis's father.

The California state attorney general's office wants the lawsuit tossed out of court on the grounds that the governor's power to reduce sentences does not require him to contact victims' families. And Nunez agrees.

"There's nothing in Marsy's Law that makes any indication whatsoever that the governor's commutation powers are altered in any way, shape or form," said Nunez.

"It is disgusting what Mr. Nunez has just said. It is as disgusting as when the governor said that this family was boring him. I challenge all of them to go to the cemetery and visit their child and see if Marsy's Law doesn't apply," said Nina Ashford, attorney for the Santos family.

The judge in Monday's hearing did not take any action on the lawsuit. The issue will be revisited on August 4.

In the meantime, San Diego's district attorney released a statement refuting Nunez's claims that his son was treated unfairly, saying that prosecutors based their decisions on evidence and the law.

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